Credit: Andrew Reed/EdSource
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond during a staff interview at EdSource.

The California Department of Education is launching the California Implicit Bias Training Initiative, a campaign to train department employees and create guidance for school districts in an effort to end systematic racism in schools, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond during a virtual press conference Thursday.

The announcement comes in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an African American man, who died after being pinned to the ground by a police officer in Minnesota. Floyd’s death has triggered protests across the country and renewed conversations about the racism targeted at African Americans.

On Monday 500 of the education department’s 2,500 employees showed up for the first meeting to discuss implicit racial bias.

The campaign, funded by a $500,000 donation from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, will train department staff and create resources and guidance so that California schools can include implicit bias training in staff professional development.

“Although this work was underway before the tragic deaths of George Floyd and others sparked the widespread unrest we see across the country, we know that we must accelerate the work of disrupting institutional racism with a sense of urgency,” Thurmond said. “We are grateful to be the recipient of such a large statewide investment that will support educators closing achievement gaps and securing racial justice for our students.”

Thurmond also plans to begin conversations about implicit bias with teachers, school administrators, students and parents; and to take the campaign beyond schools and into the community. He has been meeting with law enforcement officials, legislators and civic leaders.

“I’m banking on our ability to start the conversation about using education as the way of helping to build healing and understanding to promote tolerance and cooperation where people of all races can work together,” he said.

More than 100 people have sent emails to createracialjustice@gmail.com since the address was set up earlier this week. Thurmond had asked people to use the email address to share their feelings, thoughts and ideas about eliminating racism.

Thurmond also announced that he had galvanized a network of mental health organizations to help meet the needs of students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying school closures. After Floyd’s death the group expanded its efforts to include students impacted by racism.

The organization will help fill the mental health care gaps at schools that don’t have enough counselors or social workers until the department builds a funding network to pay for additional services, Thurmond said.

“As our students prepare to come back to school we know that they will have incredible needs for support because of how the pandemic has impacted them, because school will look different and they’ll still have to have physical distance at school and because we continue to deal with the impact of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others,” he said.

EdSource receives support from a dozen philanthropic foundations, including the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. Editorial decision-making and content remain under the sole control of EdSource.

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  1. Clayton Moore 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Thank you for the fine article. I appreciate how leadership is preparing to meet serious student needs with professionals to support students and teachers and staff. Implicit bias affects 77% of our population, and training may have benefits in many areas, as we work to achieve justice for all.

  2. Dr. Bill Conrad 1 month ago1 month ago

    You know what the children really want, Thurmond? They want their teachers to be nice to them, treat them with respect, and give them voice in the classroom and their schools. They want their teachers to know their content well and to be able to teach it well. It’s that simple. They don’t need teachers to become psychiatrists or psychologists. They just want teachers to do their job. They are very resilient and will respond well to good … Read More

    You know what the children really want, Thurmond?

    They want their teachers to be nice to them, treat them with respect, and give them voice in the classroom and their schools.

    They want their teachers to know their content well and to be able to teach it well.

    It’s that simple.

    They don’t need teachers to become psychiatrists or psychologists. They just want teachers to do their job. They are very resilient and will respond well to good teaching. That is the best palliative for our children at this point. But that is not what they are getting.

    Your main job is to make sure that we have an awesome cadre of teachers in all of our schools especially schools where there are a great number of students of color. That is the most important thing that you can do to reduce the achievement gap.

    Why don’t you use your bully pulpit to ensure that school districts assign the quality teachers currently in predominantly white schools to schools with predominantly children of color?

    Better yet, why don’t you use your influence to begin to transform the woeful and laughable colleges of education so that they recruit the finest and train them well?

    I would also suggest that you finish the job of ensuring that students of color and economically disadvantaged students get computers and access to broadband internet. You made a good start. Now finish the job. If students of color are going to advance academically within our new zeitgeist, they will need the technology.

    That may mean that you redirect funds that were intended for brick and mortar to technology. You may need to restructure the County Offices of Education so that their resources get reallocated directly to students of color so that they can all have computers. Don’t rely on corporations to bail you out of this crisis. They won’t for obvious reasons.

    Please stay focused on the key structural root causes of racism in California education. We have had enough of the conversations, workshops, and yackety yack. It is time for folks to do their jobs in support of all of the children or be gone. Enough is Enough. It is time to act.

    Please stay focused on the big picture and the right stuff.

  3. Dr. Bill Conrad 1 month ago1 month ago

    The awesome EdSource Team is doing a fantastic job in providing our education community with quality, comprehensive, and factual information during these very stressful times.

    Please seriously consider donating $25 to Edsource as they are worth every penny.

  4. Bo Loney 1 month ago1 month ago

    Pandemics change history. Online classes have been proven to be of benefit and accessible for all. We can stop fighting over the small peanut bag of acceptance spots and offer everyone a chance to follow their dreams. If anything good comes from this pandemic, all educational institutions offering online classes to meet the needs of all the people is it. Stop the educational bottleneck.