Sac City Unified Appoints Liaison to Help Address Racism and Improve on Equity and Inclusion, Social Justice and Civil Rights

Press release

Sacramento, CA - The Sacramento City Unified School District is taking a proactive step to confront racism by engaging a long-time Sacramento community member with extensive expertise in social justice and civil rights matters. 

Attorney Mark T. Harris will advise and help the district address instances of racism, and improve on equity, social justice and civil rights. He will provide impartial review of independent investigations into the recent racist incident that occurred at West Campus  to ensure that the process is credible, and will serve as a liaison to the community to support communication between the district and the Black community.

“Our district has a diverse and committed leadership team who are working hard to pierce through inequities and improve social justice so that every student, family and staff member feels included and equally supported. Yet, we acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do,” said Jorge A. Aguilar, Superintendent of Sac City Unified. “Mark Harris will be a critical friend to Sac City Unified as we support healing from the trauma that blatant racism has caused within our school communities, and will push us to go deeper to confront racial prejudice so the culture and climate at our district and each of our schools will be inclusive, supportive, culturally competent, and equitable for all  students, staff and families.”  

“The Sacramento City Unified School District community of stakeholders, which includes administrators, faculty, staff, parents and students, are entitled to be kept abreast of ongoing efforts to identify and eradicate instances of racism and discriminatory conduct from throughout the entire district,” said Mark T. Harris. “The first step on any journey towards accountability is transparency. Fundamentally, my role with the Sacramento City Unified School District is to enhance confidence in the collective ongoing investigations of allegations of racist conduct and to bring to the District innovative methods to prevent future occurrences of inappropriate conduct.”

Mr. Harris has practiced law and served in a number of public service positions in Sacramento for almost forty years. He is one of the founders of the Central Valley Leaders, a statewide youth leadership development academy, and is the Director of Pre-Law Studies at the University of California, Merced. In addition to his deep ties in Sacramento, he is a nationally recognized expert and advisor on racial justice issues. 

“The Sac City Unified School Board strongly supports the district’s efforts to become more united, more inclusive, and more educated about interrupting racism,” said Christina Pritchett, President of the Sacramento City Unified School District. “These efforts must impact every aspect of our organization, from our Board to our classrooms. We applaud the district for engaging Mr. Harris to advance this important work.”

In addition to engaging Mr. Harris, Sac City Unified has initiated a number of initiatives to  make schools more inclusive and supportive for all students. 

  • Sac City Unified has implemented mandatory anti-racism training for all staff and district leaders. Sac City Unified negotiated a day of anti-racism mandatory training for all teachers as part of professional development at the start of the school year. School site leaders, Superintendent Aguilar and the district’s leadership team have participated in the same professional development. The Sac City Unified Board is starting anti-racism training this month.
  • The district is working to improve the culture and climate district-wide so that every school is more inclusive, supportive, culturally competent, and equitable for all students and staff, including Black students and other students of color, students with disabilities, English Learners, foster youth, homeless youth, and LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Classroom libraries are being updated with high-quality antiracist and culturally responsive materials, including culturally relevant books that reflect the lived experiences of our students, and bringing in living-history speakers that can speak to justice and equity in action.
  • The district is working to recruit and retain staff who reflect the district’s diverse student population. 
  • The Men’s and Women’s Leadership Academies are being expanded to empower students of color with wraparound services that promote Social Emotional Learning, culturally relevant and responsive leadership development, meaningful mentorship, and academic support that engages students.
  • Through implementation of a Multi-Tiered System of Support, or MTSS, Sac City Unified is working to provide every student with specific academic, behavioral, social-emotional, and mental and physical health supports to meet their individual needs, so that all students can remain fully engaged in school and access core instruction.

“I am happy to hear Sac City Unified is contracting with a trusted voice in our community, attorney Mark Harris. Not only is he a seasoned lawyer and tenured professor he is a well-respected radio show host who is not afraid to ask the hard question nor is he reluctant to hold those accountable who need to be held accountable. It’s a win-win for us all.” – Jay King, President and CEO, California Black Chamber of Commerce

“The district’s embrace of antiracism education and practices is an essential step in eradicating structural racism in our country’s educational system. Parents, community members, and other advocates are enthusiastic and appropriately insistent partners, expecting the work will be approached with both urgency and thoughtfulness,” said Chet P. Hewitt, president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and The Center