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Letter to Editor: Parent finds Zimmer comments ‘offensive’

Letter to the Editor | June 9, 2014

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letters to the editorEditor’s Note: This letter, by Michael Schlesinger, an LAUSD parent, is in response to an article published May 30, entitled, Zimmer: LAUSD ‘culture war’ over co-locations on the west side.”

I’ve never been accused of racism before, so I was surprised to read board member Steve Zimmer’s comments last week, pitting neighbors against each other in an alleged “culture war.”


I know I speak for thousands of Westside parents when I say that I don’t have “a lot of fear about public schools,” as Zimmer suggested. In fact, I decided to send all three of my children to public schools – two to a traditional public school and the other to a charter public school – because I believe deeply in public education.


I also believe there’s a value in choosing a school that will provide a child with the type of education that will best enable him or her to thrive academically, culturally and personally. For some students, that might be a highly structured environment, while others might gain the most from project-based learning. For my eldest son, I chose New West Charter because I believed it would provide him with the type of social and emotional support he needed to thrive, which it has.


Zimmer’s suggestion that parents like me – many of whom have supported Steve for years – choose schools based on racial prejudice is downright offensive. He said we “don’t want to” “create integration and diversity” in our children’s schools. He said we’d prefer that our children associate with “another demographic.” Besides being insulting, these statements just don’t jive with the data. Both New West and City Charter Middle School, where I serve as a board member, have more non-white students than white students. Both schools are high performing and are located in Zimmer’s Westside board district. But these schools apparently fail to live up to Zimmer’s ethnicity-centered expectations, whatever those might be.


As anyone who reads the news knows, the education landscape is deeply divided right now. Hostility, verbal attacks and slander from across the political spectrum are fanning the flames of fear and anger. This is the opposite of what our communities need to build a strong education system and provide students with the safe, supportive, high quality learning environments they need.


I held one of the first fundraisers for Steve Zimmer at my home and I’ve supported him for a long time.  I used to think he was above this kind of hurtful provocation. It appears I was wrong. Instead of blaming families and inciting conflict, I hope my school board representative will work even harder to soothe tensions and ensure that every child is safe and supported – no matter which school he or she attends.


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