Enhancing Education through Diversity: Carlsbad Highs DEI Committee spearheads change


Brandon Faulkner

On May 23, Kelly Elementary hosted a “Listening and Learning Meeting” to discuss the upcoming DEI plan and gain community feedback.

Brandon Faulkner, Reporter

Carlsbad Unified School District’s proposed Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Plan aims to foster a sense of belonging and provide a safe space for students to express themselves freely while also informing them about how schools can change to adapt to different communities around the campus. CUSD recognizes the importance of such an environment and has established the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. 

The group’s purpose is to give students a voice to discuss campus events, share their perspectives and offer suggestions to promote diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging within the school. This initiative serves not only as a platform for students to discuss pressing issues but also as a framework for educating teachers on how to become allies with marginalized students and create a supportive atmosphere for all students.

“The students are our voice, and this is their school,” CHS Principal Julia Redfield said. “We need to be supportive to all students. They are the ones who live and breathe every day on this campus and experience the day-to-day. That is why it’s important to listen to them and understand what ideas they may have to better their educational experience.”

Students around the campus who are a part of the student-lead side of DEI have the role in what the committee does as a whole, not just for CHS but for schools around the district. Their insight provides administrators with a detailed look into problems that need to be addressed. 

 “Being an Indian student who has dealt with some challenges in school, I think that it’s important for the school district to hear my voice and all voices of students from diverse backgrounds,” junior Varun Venkatesh said.

Understanding students’ experiences and emotions is something that the DEI plan can address. This emphasizes the need for adults and peers to comprehend the diverse perspectives and interactions among students, as diversity plays a role in shaping student relationships on campus.

“Anywhere students can find those connection points at schools are valuable,” Director of Secondary Education at Carlsbad Unified School District Dr. Brain Brockett said. “Whether it’s GSA, Indian Culture Club or Dale Cultura, wherever students find those positive points of contact where they share common interests and common goals, it gives life to all of us. It gives us all a basis of support, and the more opportunities for students to connect that empower them are all the better.”

At Carlsbad, the DEI initiative is led by Spanish teacher and future assistant principal Amiee Nava, who facilitates conversations with students regarding the challenges they are facing. Students take an active role in informing teachers how they envision their campus and how teachers can effectively address concerns. Topics commonly addressed in these conversations include ethnicity, gender, bullying and whatever else is important around campus at that time.  

“My role is to lead and reach out to everyone who wants to join to express their ideas about how issues should be addressed,” Nava said. “Providing a safe place for these ideas to be discussed is something that I want to provide so that more ideas can be freely shared.”

Principal Redfield and many other administrators and staff have sat in on some of these meetings held by the student-run DEI Committee. The purpose for this is to hear students’ needs and to continue to listen to their concerns about what is happening around campus. Students give feedback on what they see and questions are thrown around about what should be done to address these issues with the DEI plan. 

“The students are our voice, and this is their school. We need to be supportive of them, their experiences, and their ideas as a whole,” Redfield said.

The DEI Committee has developed a draft plan, which is set to be implemented in the upcoming school year. This plan outlines “No Place for Hate” anti-bias training for all teachers. It also addresses the importance of providing students with a means to reach out to their teachers and share their concerns.

“Teachers are really excited about learning and they want the help and want to hear from students and to learn how to be better for all the students at CHS,” Nava said.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of how welcome students feel within their schools, district administrators distributed a survey to all families within the Carlsbad Unified School District. The survey included questions on overall satisfaction, beliefs about equity, student support and resources, campus social environment and district priorities to get a better understanding of what is currently working and what needs to be changed. 

“I think that it’s really important for every single person to have a safe space for people to be their best selves, and if you can’t be your true self, then all these efforts can be null,” senior Nate Watts said. “If students don’t have this, it can take a toll on people who don’t feel like they have space where they can share their issues with peers and teachers.”

The survey received responses from 68% of students, 24.5% of parents and 7.5% of staff members, spanning out across approximately 5,200 respondents. The feedback gathered will guide future improvements and changes within the district. The survey showed gaps where parents and students felt like some work was needed to make underrepresented pupils in order for them to feel safe at school. Administrators shared the results of the survey with the community at listening sessions held at Buena Vista Elementary, Poinsettia Elementary and Kelly Elementary and invited additional input on the DEI plan. Participants were invited to discuss how to improve inclusivity in small groups and write their suggestions to be shared with district administrators. 

“A lot of the things that we are talking about here are things that we have been doing for a long time anyway,” Brockett said. “As evidenced by the feedback, there are still gaps that are present. My hope is that students always feel that they have a support staff member or teacher to reach out to make a strong school environment. That’s what makes a stronger community.”

Student run plans include things such as slideshow presentations as well as a video that was created with the intention to inform the teachers and staff of what some issues that they feel that need to be addressed are. 

“I think that student voice and student experience is one of the key drivers of what we are doing with DEI,” Brockett said. “I, as a former principal or in my administrative role now, don’t walk in the footsteps of students. What I can do is to hear students and understand where they’re coming from and understand their concerns. There are always areas where we may see differently but having that dialogue to get on the same page is truly important.”

During DEI meetings, administrators and teachers actively participate in discussions alongside students. Topics such as LGBTQIA+ inclusion in schools and the celebration of different ethnic groups are addressed, ensuring that school remains a safe environment for all individuals to express themselves freely. In addition, various clubs, such as the Black Student Union (BSU), the Indian Culture Club, the French Club and the Japanese Language and Culture Club provide students with safe spaces to come together, share ideas, and find support among peers who share similar backgrounds and interests.

“Our hope and goal is to overcome political divides and see people at a human level and all the humanity that they bring to their work and their school work as a student,” Brockett said. “I think that’s the core [of what DEI does] is getting to know people and to understand people. Seeking to see where they are coming from in order to make informed decisions and create a detailed plan.”

The commitment to listening to students and providing reliable support reflects the core principles of the DEI committee. DEI efforts extend beyond supporting students from different minority groups or genders; they also aim to combat bullying as a whole. With proper training and support, teachers can actively intervene to ensure that marginalized students and all students feel valued and supported rather than excluded.

“I fully believe in empowering students, and when they feel that they can ask for help and take that initiative to say ‘Hey this is what’s going on’ and me being nonjudgmental ear and listening as well as being able to provide resources as they see fit is essential to this plan. Letting our students have the agency to make that decision for themselves [to reach out for help] and also as an adult stepping in when needed,” English teacher Katrina Waidelich said.

Conversations about Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion that are happening in Carlsbad are also happening around the nation. The goal of these conversations is to recognize these issues and deal with them in a safe manner. Carlsbad High is just one of the many schools leading the charge for improvement and inclusivity. 

“Change starts with a conversation,” junior Yousha Hashmi said. “I think it’s important that parents, students, and staff understand where we as students are coming from when we have conversations about this plan. Everyone is unique in their own way and comes from different diverse backgrounds who have their own struggles. Something like DEI is just one way where we can come together as a community and talk about these issues to better help one another rather than being divided on these issues.”