Burbank Board Of Education Condemns Azerbaijan And Turkey’s Aggression In Artsakh

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Burbank Unified School District office. (Photo By Ross Benson)

The Burbank Board of Education approved the adoption of Resolution 14 – Standing in Solidarity with the People of Armenia and Artsakh to Condemn Azerbaijan and Turkey’s Aggression at their regular meeting held on Thursday, October 15, with a unanimous vote for the resolution.

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Approximately 30 members of the Burbank community spoke for more than two hours during Public Comments, with many of the comments being made in support of Burbank Unified School District’s adoption of Resolution 14 and/or the official Anti-Racist Statement crafted by members of the District’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Representatives from Assemblymember Laura Friedman and State Senator Anthony Portantino’s offices also spoke in support of  Resolution 14 in particular, applauding BUSD for taking a public stand in support of Artsakh.

“Is it right for a school district to speak on what’s an international issue? I believe it is,” commented Board of Education Vice President Steven Frintner, responding to one of the Public Comment speakers. “As people with a platform, as small as this may be, sometimes you have to use that platform to say the right thing, to call out injustices or support as it needs be.”

“As the same speaker pointed out, this is a local issue because we have so many people in our community that are personally affected by the situation happening right now, that have family members that are involved, that are displaced, that are in physical danger, that may have already lost their lives,” Frintner added. “I’m happy we’re bringing this resolution forward. It’s the right thing to do.”

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“This is a critical issue. Let’s be real,” said Board member Steve Ferguson. “When our family members are in danger, it’s hard to learn. So we know, with these conflicts, even though they may seem to be big international issues, they do have at home impacts.”

According to information from the District attached to Resolution 14: “Beginning on September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan has been launching deadly and unprovoked attacks on innocent civilians in Artsakh and Armenia in coordination with Turkey. The Azerbaijan’s aggression puts innocent civilian lives at risk. The Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is the historical homeland of Armenians.The Burbank Unified School District supports peace in the region by enforcing the 1994 ceasefire agreement.”

“There are many students, families, and employees of Armenian descent who are valued members of the Burbank Unified School District. Furthermore, BUSD is committed to the teaching of awareness, understanding, the peaceful resolution of problems, and the strength of diversity in our schools as these qualities may help instill in today’s young generation the optimism and hope for a better world.”

“I have heard some concerns from families and students originally from Turkey living here now,” commented BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill. “We won’t tolerate any bullying or abuse about that. This statement tonight is really about the actions of leadership and military powers that are creating a war across the country and we want to make sure we highlight that war and bring peaceful resolution.”

“I do want to stress for all, in Burbank Unified, here in Burbank you are welcome. It goes right along with what we’re talking about with the Anti-Racist Statement,” Hill added. “That hatred, that evil, should not come back here in Burbank. And we will need to work together as an entire Burbank community.”

Board President Dr. Armond Aghakhanian talked about the work he and fellow Board member Ferguson have been doing with the District’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and the crafting of the Anti-Racism Statement and linked it to the events in Artsakh that have resulted in the creation of Resolution 14.

“I think when we talk about the past and the history, all of this intertwines,” he said. “Just imagine how difficult it was, growing up, that little added surname at the end which was not given to you by your father or grandfather or great-grandfather, but was a way of identifying you [as a Christian or ethnic group], where you can be singled out.”

“This is the same story we heard when 1.5 million of my community – Armenians – were marching to their death. It’s happening again, people,” Aghakhanian said. “This is not about attacking families who are of Turkish descent. This is about a dictator who’s sending mercenaries and weapons. This is about oil and blood money. This is about children and churches being hit by rockets and drones.”

“An unprovoked war, breaking every cease fire that was from 1994 to the current United Nations,” he continued. “Today, watching the execution of two soldiers wrapped in their motherland’s flag. Imagine what that does to a student here who has family there.”

“This is about democracy. It’s not just about Armenians and Artsakh…” Aghakhanian also said, about both Resolution 14 and the BUSD Anti-Racism Statement. “Everything we’re talking about tonight is about humanity. And it’s difficult for all of us. It’s a difficult conversation.”

Aghakhanian thanked his fellow Board members for their support and specifically, Reynolds and Ferguson, who marched with him and 100,000 others on Sunday, October 11, condemning the Azerbaijan and Turkish aggression against Artsakh.

The text of the resolution follows, as read by Board member Dr. Roberta Reynolds:

RESOLUTION 14

THE BURBANK UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

STANDING IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE OF ARMENIA AND ARTSAKH TO CONDEMN AZERBAIJIAN AND TURKEY’S AGGRESSION

WHEREAS,on September 27th, 2020, Azerbaijan’s military forces have launched a deadly and unprovoked attack against the Armenian population in Artsakh with help from Turkey; and

WHEREAS,Azerbaijan’s aggression puts innocent children and civilian livesat risk and violates fundamental U.S. ideals and Human Rights teachings; and

WHEREAS,the Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is the historical homeland of Armenians, and has been primarily populated by Armenians for thousands of years; and

WHEREAS, Azerbaijan’s renewed aggression is a violation of the United Nations’ call for a worldwide ceasefire amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic and is in violation of its 1994 ceasefire agreement with Armenia; and

WHEREAS,the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric and actions against Artsakh and Armenia pose a threat to human rights, peace,and global security; and

WHEREAS,the Burbank Unified School District celebrates the rich diversity of its community and recognizes the thousands of students, families, and employees of Armenian descent; and

WHEREAS, the city of Burbank has officially recognized the city of “Hadrut” in Artsakh, which is under attack, as a “Friendship” city; and

WHEREAS, in times of unrest, it is important that we come together and support our students and their families as a community showing empathy and kindness to our students, employees, and families who are diasporic Armenians; and

WHEREAS, the Burbank Unified School District reaffirms its commitment to providing a safe learning environment with emotional and mental health support for all students; and

WHEREAS, the Burbank Unified School District recognizes the role of current and historical eventsi n the teaching of awareness and understanding, peaceful conflict resolution through dialogue, and the cause and and strength of diversity; and

WHEREAS, the Burbank Unified School District stands in solidarity with its Armenian students and their families and relatives in Armenia and Artsakh,

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Education of the Burbank Unified School District resolves to:

1.Condemn Azerbaijan’s unprovoked aggression against Artsakh;

2.Condemn Turkish assistance and the transport of mercenaries to Azerbaijan;

3.Stand in solidarity with BUSD’s vast Armenian student body and provide physical, emotional, and mental health support to carry them through these difficult times.

THE FOREGOING RESOLUTION was adopted this 15th day of October, 2020, at a meeting of the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education, Los Angeles County, California.

The video and complete agenda of the Burbank Board of Education meeting for October 15 can be found online here.

The Burbank Board of Education is comprised of President Dr. Armond Aghakhanian, Vice President Steve Frintner, Clerk Charlene Tabet, and members Dr. Roberta Reynolds and Steve Ferguson. More information on the Board can be found online here.

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