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Goal of Sac City Unified's new race and equity liaison 'to prevent racist incidents'

The new position was developed in light of highly publicized racist incidents at two school district campuses, with educators and parents continuing to urge change.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) officials created a new position to address racism at its 75 campuses across Sacramento

Social justice attorney Mark Harris is set to take on the role of district liaison and provide independent recommendations to the district on investigations and racist incidents. The goal of the liaison role is to prevent racist incidents in the future, SCUSD officials say.

Superintendent Jorge Aguilar says the position will also help in addressing systemic racism and suggesting changes within the district. 

"We are going to continue to lean in and be as proactive as we can to address issues of systemic racism," Aguilar said. "Racism and hatred have no place in our school community, yet we acknowledge that racial reckoning has not hit all areas of the district." 

The announcement of the new position Wednesday comes in light of racist incidents at SCUSD school sites in the past year. Harris, the district's new liaison, says three investigations of racism have been opened by the district.

"I think it's a great idea to have an independent investigator or monitor to come in. I'm just wondering why it took so long," said Loreen Pryor, President and CEO of Black Youth Leadership Project.

In July, students at SCUSD's Kit Carson International Academy broke their silence on racist remarks made by a Spanish teacher, who allegedly used the "N-word" during a seventh-grade class. Months later, in November, an assistant principal at West Campus High School was hospitalized for stress-induced seizures after she was targeted by both personal attacks online and racist graffiti painted near her parking space.

Harris, who grew up in Los Angeles, says his children attended West Campus High School. He says the recent incidents of racism at the campus are "intolerable" and has promised, "whoever is responsible for those atrocious acts will be held accountable." 

The investigation into the incident at Kit Carson Elementary is coming to a close.

While Harris applauds the effort to create the position, he and others in the community say they will not be celebrating until work is done. 

"We are killing the dreams and hopes and desires of black students in American schools," Harris said. "I’m not celebrating anything until we get to the bottom of this and fix some stuff."

Pryor says she'll remain cautiously optimistic that things will change within SCUSD and that the individuals involved in the acts of racism will be held accountable for their actions.

"What I would like to see is supports put in place for black students," said Pryor. "You cannot think that these racist actions do not have an impact on them, and so how we respond in caring for them has to be paramount even beyond the investigation."

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