By A&E Editor Megh Basu
Who Is Lucy Shen?
A second-generation bilingual Chinese American who recently was a student in FUSD, Lucy Shen hopes to promote diversity through a student’s perspective as a school board member. The youngest person running for the District 5 board seat, Shen graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in computer science and then went on to conduct research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and study at Oxford University. From working in FUSD advocacy groups, including the CHPSE task force in 2018, Shen has gained experience working in the district for parents, students, and community members alike.
Some of Shen’s key positions include increasing accessibility to educational resources for all students in FUSD and being more transparent in communication with community stakeholders. When it comes to schools, Shen emphasizes the importance of hiring more mental health professionals and incorporating diversity in curricula.
Speaking on the diversity and transparency-based platform she is running on, Shen said, “At the center of everything, I’ve been trying to emphasize how I can fulfill a function as a bridge in many ways, as someone who was a student in our high schools, [and] as a daughter of immigrants. I truly believe my experience can help fill gaps and bridge divides.”
Shen sees, through talking to community members, that students and teachers alike have felt a lack of help from the district in the transition to distance learning. “I do feel like our teachers have felt unsupported in that they haven’t been given proper training for what remote learning is supposed to look like, and, on the flip side, students also need support. This is a totally different framework that [they’re] going to be learning under,” she said.
To amend this, she wants to make remote learning training mandatory for teachers, as currently, educators in FUSD have the option to use their professional development days towards distance learning training or to opt out. She also believes the district needs to be more prepared on the technology front, citing that Wi-Fi hotspots arrived two weeks into the school year, which left disadvantaged students in a scramble to find free Internet during that time.
Shen praised the district for providing free meals to food insecure students, but she believes the board could have done better in being more transparent about the negotiations and changes happening behind the scenes of the distance learning process. She said, “From the parental front, I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints of a lack of transparency in this process. Transparency is a key piece of accessibility. If parents don’t know what’s going on, how are they supposed to participate?”
In terms of reopening schools, Shen supports closely following CDC and Alameda County guidelines. She acknowledges that there are many obstacles presented before safely returning to school, such as proper ventilation in classrooms. “As our knowledge evolves on [COVID-19], making data-driven, science-backed decisions to follow policies that are data-driven and science-backed, that’s the most important thing,” she said.
In line with her diversity-based platform, Shen advocates for increased inclusivity in curricula. “America is a country of immigrants, right?” she said. “We’re a country of immigrant stories. Yet our curriculum does not reflect that.”
Shen elaborates with her own experience learning about the Chinese Exclusion Act for the first time in AP US History. “It was a very brief mention, maybe a paragraph or a few paragraphs, and then it was just over,” she said. Because classes like this failed to educate her well on important aspects of her heritage, Shen supports reforming curricula in history and English classes to be more inclusive of ethnic stories.
As a supporter of AB331, a bill that would have made an Ethnic Studies class a mandatory graduation requirement for all California high school students, Shen believes that learning about different backgrounds and ethnicities in the context of American education is crucial. Speaking on the first stories of Asian immigration to the US, Shen said, “This is a narrative that is completely missing from our history textbooks, and as a community, that is demographically the way that we are, it’s criminal to me that we’re not learning about our own cultural histories.”
Beyond diversity in class lessons, Shen also believes in investing more into the arts programs, which currently rely heavily on donations. “If we’re saying that the arts should be funded by donations, then we’re saying that the arts are optional, which they should not be,” she said. In terms of health and sexual education, while she “sees [the curriculum] moving in a good direction,” she believes that the curriculum in place needs to be updated further. “One year of health in freshman year of high school is the farthest extent you get with [health and sexual education],” Shen said. “To me, that’s not enough.”
Mental health is the basis of Shen’s platform. Because many students have spoken out about the hostile, stressful environment that certain FUSD schools perpetuate, Shen wants to put students’ well-being and peace of mind first. She believes in investing in more mental health professionals and resources in an effort to support students during distance learning.
Shen also supports students being able to take more AP and higher achievement classes, stating that “there’s no reason to stick to such rigid standards about who’s allowed to take what class if it doesn’t benefit anyone.”
Elaborating further, she said, “I want to recognize that it is true that a lot of this [academic] pressure does come from our cultures at home, from our parents. But I don’t really agree with the way it has been pushed back on by the administration. The pushback from the administration was always, ‘We don’t do that here.You need to be conforming to our understanding of what is normal.’” To accommodate students’ higher academic achievement interests, Shen supports letting students take AP and dual-enrollment classes, stating a need for flexibility from administration going forward.
On the topic of special education and whether children with special needs should be integrated into regular classes, Shen calls it a “case-by-case situation,” saying, “There are definitely certain kinds of special education kids that can be integrated, and then certain special education kids that need a level of attention that would make it infeasible for them to be integrated into non-special needs classes.”
Though she believes FUSD’s special needs program is “pretty good,” Shen says that administration needs to be more cognizant of how children are placed in special needs classes, mentioning that some may be children with behavioral issues. “The people who get placed in special needs, not all of them are special needs. [Some are] the children [that] administration doesn’t know how to deal with,” she said.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS:
As FUSD reevaluates keeping School Resource Officers (SROs) at the six high schools, the issue has become a hot topic among school board candidates. Shen doesn’t see the need for SROs, instead believing that the district should opt for more mental health professionals, as she believes in investing in preventative measures rather than reactive measures.
As someone who has heard first-hand accounts of traumatic experiences with SROs, Shen believes that continuing to employ SROs represents a difference in priority — putting a false sense of security over students’ mental health. “[The district] hiring SROs instead of mental health professionals is prioritizing perceived safety over actual mental health for our students,” she said.
LEARN MORE ABOUT LUCY SHEN:
Visit Lucy Shen’s website at www.votelucyshen.com