South Junior High School among top schools in state in practicing civic engagement

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By Patricia Karlak

South Junior High School had a special presentation at its recent Open House, with California Appellate Court Administrative Presiding Justice Judith McConnell honoring the campus with the California Civic Learning Award.

South is one of only six school statewide to receive the honor for its emphasis on civic education. The Civic Learning Award is co-sponsored by California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“It’s refreshing to see how creative educators and motivated students learn about the power of democracy,” said Cantil-Sakauye. “These courses and programs help motivate our leaders of tomorrow.”

Winners were selected by a panel of experts based on the school’s depth and breadth of research-based best practices in civic education, in line with recommendations from the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning. The task force was established by the chief justice and the state superintendent to make recommendations for elevating the status of civic learning in public schools.

In addition to South Junior High School being honored with the California Civic Learning Award of Distinction, Anaheim Union is home to Orange County’s first California Democracy Schools—Loara and Savanna high schools. Dale Junior High School and Oxford Academy are also Civic Learning Award of Merit honorees.

Meanwhile, AUHSD Superintendent Michael Matsuda was recently honored as California’s top administrator of social studies education for his work promoting civic education through the social studies curriculum.

“More than ever, in these times of uncertainty and declining levels of trust in public institutions, it is important that we put democracy front and center in public schools,” Mr. Matsuda said. “Where else are young people going to learn about democratic practices, which include civic inquiry and action?”

Democratic practices were put into action this year at Savanna High School when the student body voted overwhelmingly to rebrand its mascot, Confederate soldier “Johnny Rebel,” following a concern lodged by several students, their families and concerned community members.

The superintendent credited the civic inquiry and action process that the school’s Social Studies Department developed as the basis for the calm atmosphere in which the students’ voices were heard.

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