MVLA trustee’s comment meets criticism

Board member Sanjay Dave’s remarks regarding minority involvement in AP classes result in backlash from educational community

By Daphne Ih and Kristen Fan

MVLA School Board member Sanjay Dave received backlash after the April 16 school board meeting from district parents and staff over comments he made during a discussion about diversity in AP enrollment. During the meeting, he stated that educators would have to alter courses for minority students if the district pushed for more diversity in AP classes.

“AP courses are something that is meant for our most serious students– it’s not meant for students who are not ready for those courses,” Dave said at the board meeting. “How do you change your AP courses to make sure that you [can] adapt to having more minority students?”

The comment came after Mountain View science teacher Sarah Hawthorne discussed the science department’s goals to increase diversity in AP courses with the school board. MVLA staff, students and the overall community were offended by the way he worded his comment.

“I’m frankly quite puzzled that a fellow minority would say something like that,” sophomore Jacqueline Ramirez said. “No one should stop trying to grow and challenge themselves just because they’re a different race than others. What AP classes need is diversity. More ideas and more people willing to challenge themselves.”

Dave issued a follow-up apology to the Mountain View Voice on April 20 in which he said that he had misrepresented himself. In an effort to address the situation, Dave and other board members plan to have lunch with Los Altos’ AVID students on May 21.

“I do not think anybody is not capable in any AP classes,” Dave said to The Talon. “I want to make that clear… I definitely misspoke on what I said there, and I apologize for that and I admit to that.”

Most students did not know about the incident, but when informed of Dave’s comment, Latino Student Union President junior Luis Mendoza was taken aback at his racial insensitivity.

“I don’t think we should judge anybody by their background or ethnicity [because] everybody [can] learn new things,” Luis said. “If people want to succeed in an AP class, they will dedicate their own time and put in the work.”

Los Altos English and AVID teacher Jonathan Kwan appreciates Dave’s attempts to reach out and believes this will help him establish a more personal relationship with the district’s minority students by promoting empathy and understanding.

But at the same time, Kwan also believes that allocating blame on Dave is not the real issue at hand. With the recently formed Teachers in Solidary club, Kwan helped release a statement on April 24 to the school board, district administration, and Los Altos and Mountain View High School staff that focused on moving forward and reassuring minority students that their teachers would stand behind them.

“We believe it is our job as teachers, whether we teach a skills course, college prep course, or AP/Honors course, to make a conscious effort to welcome and include underrepresented minorities in our classrooms,” Teachers in Solidarity said in their statement. “We believe in learning about students’ experiences before casting opinion…[and] that ‘rigor’ is not a fair reason to discourage open access to challenging courses.”