Lindsey Fox Works Hard to Make Sure Her Son’s Message of Equality Resonates
Why it matters.
When Lindsey Fox was pregnant with her first child, she was put on bed rest for eight weeks for preterm contractions. She and her husband, Andy, were so happy to give birth to a healthy boy named Jackson, but it was a scary experience and not one they wanted to relive.
Both Andy and his sister were adopted, so the idea to adopt a child was a natural choice when it came time for a second child. In 2011, after a couple of near misses, they were matched and welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the family. Lindsey was present at the birth and was even able to go skin-to-skin with her new son, Will.
The Fox family moved from El Segundo to Manhattan Beach, where they enrolled Will in Circle of Love preschool—a place that lives up to its name. There was great diversity in the faculty, and Will thrived in this environment under the loving care of his teachers. They even helped Lindsey with caring for his hair, which was a cultural nuance she was not prepared for. Will is now in third grade and still has a relationship with these wonderful teachers.
He has a style all his own and loves changing his look. He loves sports, music and fashion. He is self-aware, so when the recent BLM protests began, he wanted to participate. Lindsey found a board to make a sign and asked Will what he wanted to write. “Do you want to write Black Lives Matter?” To that Will exclaimed, “I want to write ‘My Life Matters!” The image of him holding this sign went viral. After that first protest, they attended every peaceful protest in their area—an effort important to Will and his family.
When Will entered elementary school, Lindsey became acutely aware of the lack of diversity there. Also disturbing were certain repeated behaviors, like the constant touching and petting of Will’s hair, which made him feel uncomfortable and different.
One day he ran home and cried, “Mom! Mom! I found another one!” And when Lindsey asked for clarification, Will said, “Another Black student like me. Now there are four of us.”
Lindsey thought this couldn’t be right and immediately checked the California Department of Education website. She was alarmed to see that Will was correct; there were only four Black students in his entire elementary school (of about 750 students).
From that moment, Lindsey started researching and collecting data to fully understand the lack of diversity in Manhattan Beach schools. Around this time, the family welcomed a young Black British EvoSoccer coach named Manny to live with them for two weeks. The two weeks turned into three years, and Will and Manny formed a deep bond—a brotherhood.
Manny’s life story is harrowing. He was born on the side of the road on Christmas Eve while his parents were trying to escape the war in Sudan. Manny gave Will a sense of security and belonging. Lindsey reflects on their time together fondly. “I am very aware that as much as I have Will’s back, there are things that I can’t understand or fulfill,” she shares. “He really needs positive Black role models in his life, like Manny.”
Lindsey is a former elementary school teacher and has a master’s degree specializing in curriculum design, so when she decided to attend the PTA district council meetings, it was with an expert eye for change. She wanted to better understand how the council’s decisions would affect Will and other students like him. She was shocked to learn that the testing statistics for Black students were at 50% of the standard compared to others.
After spending three years listening to the same statistics and pulling data together, Lindsey was called to action. She spoke at a board meeting last October to address the alarming data regarding Black students’ performance, and also to highlight that the already minute enrollment of Black students in Manhattan Beach schools was declining. Going back five years to 2015, Black students accounted for 2.4% of the public school student population and had dropped to a shocking 1.2% enrollment in the district. After delving deeper, Lindsey discovered that the numbers were declining mainly because Black students didn’t feel welcome. This had to change.
Lindsey began working with the director of curriculum to include more African American cultural events and more positive African American leaders as part of the American history curriculum. The BLM movement and the protests brought a lot of needed attention and focus on these issues. Many Mira Costa alumni were back in town this summer, and Ronald Clinton—now a senior at Stanford—took the lead in making a change to the curriculum.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been read and studied in literature classes for decades, but many may be shocked to recall that the “N” word is cited 219 times in that book. Imagine the impact of reading that hateful and offensive word and then having to discuss it in class. The book has now been taken out of English curricula for its coarse and offensive racial slurs, but there are several other books that spin a racist tale that are now being evaluated in order to swap them with more affirmative narratives. Lindsey describes these as “small wins” but recognizes that these moments will collectively bring the change we need.
Hanna Gedion and Jenna Ahmed, Mira Costa students who are part of the national organization Diversify Our Narrative, also inspired Lindsay. They plan to introduce one book by a current author of color into each grade of the high school. This will bring more positive and current Black characters into literature studies. Currently no history is taught in ninth grade, so Hanna and Jenna are motivated to bring a multicultural studies class into the freshman curriculum.
“Will has moved me to take action. He has opened me up to seeing so much more of the world. He is my gift.”
Lindsey has the fantastic ability of bringing people together for the greater good. She worked with Ronald Clinton and his MB/HB/MBUSD Community Panel for Equity as well as the vice principal at Manhattan Beach Middle School to write a grant for resources and books to help teachers deal with racism, grade for equity and educate about anti-racism. A number of other parents were working hard to roll out curricular changes at other schools within the district, and it was Lindsey who brought these individuals together to form a united front.
The board is now forming a formal committee of parent, board and faculty representatives of each school to look at social issues, race and justice. They are investigating social justice standards to incorporate into the curriculum from an incredible resource for teachers, tolerance.org. The pillars of these standards are identity, diversity, justice and action.
As part of social studies in third grade, students delve into local government. When Lindsey heard Will’s class was learning how Manhattan Beach got its name, she thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make a video on the history of Bruce’s Beach. She got permission from the Manhattan Beach Historical Society to use their photographs to make a short video and had her kids narrate it.
Rhonda Steinberg, the principal at Pacific School, asked Lindsey if she would be open to teaching the history of Bruce’s Beach to the third grade students. She has become an expert on the subject and was recently elected to the board of Bruce’s Beach. A key issue in Bruce’s Beach history is the narrative on the plaque claiming that George Peck gave away the land, but there is no evidence to support that claim. Many think the plaque should celebrate the strong African American woman Willa Bruce who owned the land and fought hard to keep it.
Lindsey, Jenna, Hanna, Ronald and young Will are actively working to improve diversity and equity in our schools, in our community and beyond. They and others like them are shining beacons that bring hope for a more inclusive, equitable and happy society. They are fighting for a world where Will and so many other children like him won’t have to explain to people why their lives matter.
Lindsey says it best: “Will has moved me to take action. He has opened me up to seeing so much more of the world. He is my gift.”