The end of the beginning – A note from the student board member Tyler Pearce

TYLER PEARCE in action on the board at the Capistrano Unified School District. (TritonTimes)

Tyler Pearce | Head Editor

May 16, 2024

The following article is a statement previously commended on May 15th, 2024, by me, your 2023-2024 Student Board Member to the Board Of Trustees Capistrano Unified School District. 

“I’m not even sure how to begin, but this is my last meeting as your student representative. Words can’t honestly describe how thankful and honored I am to have had this opportunity over the past nine months.

Thank you to the board and staff who allowed me to sit in this seat. Thank you to everyone for providing me with opportunities beyond what I could have imagined.

I also want to thank those who challenged me and possibly opposed my views this year. You have taught me tolerance and how to respectfully engage with differing perspectives, even when they are new or contrary to my own beliefs.

We live in a society where diverse thoughts and ideas are essential for progress. Here on this board—the most local and effective form of government for students, parents, and those involved in the education system—I have learned the valuable lesson of respecting and coexisting with viewpoints that I both agree with and disagree with, even those that make my stomach flip.

Through leadership and speaking up, I’ve found liberation not just for myself but for the roughly 43,000 students in this district. Each of our voices is powerful and unique, something that can’t be replicated, measured by ability, or easily categorized. Using our voices here is imperative, especially if you’re a student.

I will never forget the emotions, passion, and dedication of showing up for the students—not for personal agendas, but for the students. This is our education.

Reflecting on my time here, I remember moments that have left a lasting impact. I was in this seat when I heard that being a part of the LGBTQ community is a “form of undiagnosed autism.” I was also here when I was called a “leftist pawn” by Congressman Bill Essayli. But I was also here when hundreds of students showed up to support their future… and when students from all walks of life were vulnerable to the belief that their rights and autonomy were at risk… and as a board, we listened. I was in this seat when I was singled out for advocating for student rights, and I was also complimented for those exact efforts.

A lot has happened in this seat. But most importantly, I was brave in this seat, and I put 100% into every meeting to ensure that the students of CapoUSD had the best representation possible.

TYLER PEARCE sitting on the board during the monthly district board meeting. (TritonTimes)

As I leave, there are three issues I am passionate about ensuring remain part of the conversation next year:

Shutting down book ban discussions.

Ensuring that “parental rights notification” or homophobic outing policies stay away.

Making sure everyone realizes how fortunate we are to receive a world-class public education and have the freedom to voice our opinions.

It’s shocking that I still need to address the issue of book bans. Not just because of the books being questioned but because of the impact of online opinionated Instagram accounts that promote the alienation of minority groups. Instagram accounts that pride themselves in religious and political beliefs, among others, spread misinformation and hate speech that affects the student body I represent. Although I am blocked from these accounts, I can still see how they influence the conversation surrounding the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community and the movement to ban books that according to these niche groups “promote transgenderism”, “queer liberation,” or broadly address anything under gender and identity. or frankly any idea that goes against these social media groups’ message of promoting “traditional ideologies.”

The teachers are concerned that their professional credentials and authority in their subject areas are being undermined by external influences, which they feel patronize both teachers and students. Teachers are the experts in their fields and should have the final say in the content taught. They believe that students are being treated as incapable of engaging with challenging texts, which undermines their intellectual development.

I would also like to throw in for the individuals who push for banning books to realize that 43,000 individual educational experiences are at risk when you try to ban a book to benefit your personal beliefs.

Let’s also look at history… and reflect on a time when book burning or banning or just limitations, in general, sparked positive change in society…

TYLER PEARCE during another board meeting sitting on the board. (TritonTimes)

I overheard classmates of mine talking about the book “My Shadow Is Pink” and how, according to these online groups, it was deemed dangerous for children, along with something that shouldn’t be read in class.

I wanted to address this because when I was younger, I wore pink and dressed in princess dresses. Material like this, at an age when I was alienated for expressing this part of myself, would have saved me a lot of mental struggles. Being told that I was “not normal” or “had issues” did not help me develop if that’s what we’re actually worried about. But shockingly enough, that is not the primary concern here.

The groups pushing against this book have said nothing but empty remarks and homophobic hate speech both online and in this room. The idea that I, someone who related to the book, had a “pink shadow” and am being told again that these people fear this book because of what it teaches is far from the truth. Nobody is converting children to sexuality but rather promoting healthy open-mindedness and normalization of marginalized communities that do exist.

If it isn’t already clear, I want to remember the hundreds of students who spoke against the outing policy on October 18th to prove that these communities exist. Their voices were loud and clear, a perfect example of what our generation can achieve through collaborative efforts. The fact that individuals still come up today and talk about bringing this back shocks me and worries me, but it mostly assures me that future generations will understand the importance of using their voices.

This brings me to my final point: profound appreciation for the valuable education that many students and I are privileged to receive.

When we look around the globe, it’s clear that this level of education isn’t accessible to everyone. Especially in times like these, it’s imperative to recognize the privilege we hold being here in this room, having the freedom to use our voices. Equally important is the responsibility to not abuse this privilege.

Today, children and families around the world are being killed, stripped of their freedoms, separated, censored, and worse. Children are hungry, sleeping on the streets, being trafficked, and dehumanized. Education is the last thing on their minds when their primary concern is survival.

The parents of these children aren’t worried about upholding dated “traditional values” in their textbooks and reading books; their focus is on their children’s safety and ability to survive. These children would give anything to be in our shoes, unconcerned with trivial issues compared to their struggles. It’s time for us to adopt a more holistic and global perspective.

To bring this closer to home, let me emphasize that these struggles aren’t just happening around the globe and within our community. The specifics may differ, but the narrative is the same. I know kids at my school who can’t attend every day because they must work to support their families or take care of siblings while their parents work to pay the bills.

Not everyone in our district has the access or privilege to attend these meetings on a Wednesday evening. The reality is that, although we may all go to the same schools, the opportunities and privileges we experience are not uniformly distributed. We must acknowledge these disparities and strive for a more equitable understanding and support system for everyone.

Unfortunately, these aren’t issues that can be fixed through board meetings or conversations, but acknowledging the issue is the first step. This very reason of being unable to identify a solution motivates me to study political science and international relations next year at Boston University. I aim to use that education to deeply understand how to be a helpful member of society by providing a voice for those who are incapable. Although this is my last statement on this board, I doubt this is the last time you will hear me speak up about these issues and ways to resolve them collectively. So with that, goodbye for now, and thank you to everyone for letting me realize how deep this passion lies within me.”

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