Weekend conference aims to address divisiveness, assure students feel supported by community, educators

PSUSD held a similar conference in the past, but it was a smaller scale and all virtual. This year the conference is a full day, packed with panels led by city officials, local leaders, and national experts.
For the first time, students from Palm Springs Unified School District went on a district-sponsored tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities earlier this year. A day-long conference this weekend intends to build on the effort.

Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) is gearing up for this weekend’s Diversity & Racial Equity Conference, encouraging all interested all those who are interested to register as soon as possible. This year’s theme is “Exclusionary ‘isms’: Racism, Sexism, Colorism, Tokenism, and Heterosexism.”

At issue: Dr. Nicole Crawford, the district’s Diversity and Racial Equity coordinator, said the timing for the conference is perfect. 

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  • “Our nation has been very divisive the last few years, and there have been times when people of color or people who don’t identify as straight feel shame or guilt,” she said. “So, this gathering is to celebrate the uniqueness and the beauty of diversity.”

  • Ultimately, she said, it’s about making sure kids feel understood, heard, and supported by the district and the community as a whole. 

Catch up: PSUSD has held a similar conference in the past, but it was a smaller scale and all virtual. This year the conference is a full day Saturday at the Palm Springs Convention Center packed with panels led by city officials, local leaders, and national experts.

Zoom in: It’s been a busy year of firsts for PSUSD. 

  • The district launched its first college tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and is close to announcing the attendees for the upcoming Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) College and Culture tour;

  • It hosted a Family Literacy Event for English learner families and a multicultural festival and also launched its first Native American Parent Advisory Council (PAC), which joins other groups like the African American PAC, Latino PAC, and Junior Black Achievers; and

  • Jarvis Williams, one of the district’s diversity and racial equity specialists, started a weekly meeting at Desert Hot Springs High School for Black students to help them find community, learn about themselves, and learn about topics not discussed in academic curricula.

But wait: With all the changes, there also came some confusion in the community. Dr. Crawford said that thankfully it has been kept to a minimum.

  • “You’re always going to receive some sort of pushback when you’re doing equity work,” she said. “But there has been overwhelming support from the families, students, and staff.”

  •  When there is pushback, it often comes from people who think there isn’t a problem with racism, sexism, homophobia and other prejudices simply because it’s not their experience. 

Why it matters: “People who don’t come from these historically marginalized communities don’t realize the impact that these things have on our daily lives,” Dr. Crawford said. That’s one of the big motivators for the conference and other events.  

  • Williams spoke to that on a recent episode of the PSUSD podcast “You Learn Something New Every Day”: “People have to be very bold and courageous to deal with those truths,” he said. “I think that the space and the climate of our country and of this valley is that we have to start having those courageous conversations. Until that happens, we become stagnant. But we want to live, and we want to thrive.” 

Zoom out: Even if you don’t have kids in the district, your taxes are going to the school district, noted Dr. Crawford. That’s why it’s still important for you to be informed and engaged with PSUSD.

  • “We always welcome community members, families, businesses, and people without kids in the district to join our parent advisory councils. Everyone should care about what the children in your community are facing,” said Dr. Crawford.

Details: The free conference runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Convention Center. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. Attendees will hear a keynote speech from equity consultant Nicole Anderson, attend breakout sessions, and even try for raffle prizes.

  • During the catered lunch break, there will be raffles and performances from all four PSUSD high schools:

Bottom line: Be sure to register online here a few days before the conference to ensure an accurate headcount for food preparation.

To keep up to date with all things related to PSUSD Diversity and Racial Equity, follow these Facebook and Instagram accounts.


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