Opinion: Redistricting Won’t be the End of the World

Photo Credit: Sequoia Union High School District (seq.org)

The proposed changes to the district boundaries won't have the perverse effects some may predict

Let’s face it: people don’t like change. At M-A, this has been most noticeable in regard to the recent redistricting proposed by the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) School Board. The redrawing of the district lines has stirred up concerns in communities throughout the area.


Many of these concerns are valid; families are worried about which school their children will attend. In these cases, I am grateful for their engagement in community affairs. I have, however, heard some more problematic worries from around the M-A area. I have heard parents (mostly Menlo Park and Atherton parents) say that if the district lines are redrawn as planned, they will send their children to Sacred Heart or Menlo.


This is unacceptable.


Parents want the best for their kids, I get it. I also understand that these private schools offer a different academic environment in which some children will excel. But this logic hasn’t managed to get through to these complaining parents. Instead, they like the small, private school options because they are essentially homogenous — they don’t have any of ‘those kids.’


The truth is that the ‘rationale’ (I use that term loosely, as it implies logical decision making) behind the fear of M-A going downhill is a fear of racial integration at the school.  Before you take offense from my bluntness, understand that this is a racially charged issue, and to sweep race under the carpet would only add to the problem. And we have had a tendency to do exactly that for far too long. The redrawn lines, as planned, will add about 70 students from the Ravenswood district in East Menlo Park (predo to the M-A community). This is the issue of contention that overprotective parents are voicing their concerns over, and this is what I find unacceptable.

While not overt, these prejudices still dominate parts of the area. Ungrounded concern over crime or drugs and irrational fears over ‘urban’ or ‘ethnic’ cultures are poisoning M-A as an academic environment.


The truth is, the demographics at M-A will not change significantly. To avoid drastic growth in the school’s student body, the district will take approximately 70 Redwood City students out of M-A and place them at Sequoia High School. I’m not going to go into great detail about the data figures for two reasons: First, the figures are simple and numbers will not change significantly, and second,  actually studying the numbers would be far too logical for people so closed-minded that they feel the need to ‘protect’ their children from people of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

 

M-A prides itself on its diversity. I’m not trying to give the impression of this school as a group hand-holding, Kumbaya-singing, all-inclusive students; that would be naive. I will say, however, that the prejudices held by some members of the Menlo Park and Atherton communities are appalling.

 

At this point, I could talk about the foolishness of ignorance. I could go on about how hiding from tough issues doesn’t make them disappear, or how we all can learn something from those who wear something other than Lacoste and Sperrys on a daily basis. I won’t do that, though. Instead, I want to address directly the parents I’ve been talking about.

 

If you are one of these people who feels the need to send your child to a private school to avoid the racial diversity M-A has to offer, please, as a favor to all of us, do exactly so.