The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) discriminate against boys who are gay or atheist. Our school district has a non-discrimination policy. Because of the school’s “Limited Open Forum” policy, our former superintendent believed we are required to send out recruitment letters on behalf of the BSA and other nonprofit youth groups. In the past, the disclaimer (copied below) has been sent out attached to the flyer. However, it has more often than not been a problem to get the correct disclaimer sent out, to have it sent out stapled on the flyer rather than printed on the back, or to have it included at all. How would you resolve this issue?
Distribution of Information from the Boy (Cub) Scouts of America
As a service to parents, the Davis Joint Unified School District customarily allows local youth groups to use school-home communication channels. When the school district allows some non-profit youth groups this service, the district creates what the law terms a “limited open forum.” Under the first amendment rights of the constitution this means that all local, non-profit youth groups must be offered the equal opportunity to use those school-home communication channels.
The local DJUSD policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of race/ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, mental disability, physical disability, physical condition, family structure, religion, political beliefs or age. The national policy of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) does not allow persons who express themselves as atheist or gay to participate in the BSA. In that way, the BSA’s national policy is inconsistent with the local school district’s policy. However, the First Amendment rights of the constitution supercede any local school district policy. Therefore, the school district does allow BSA (and Cub Scouts) to use the school’s home-school communication channels.
Joe Spector: “It’s my understanding that this is about rules of non-discrimination and freedom of speech. I studied this in law-school. There are groups out there that spread hate and discrimination, but we know that freedom of speech is very important. There can’t be hate speech allowed.” Joe offered some recommendations suggesting that, “we as a community need to educate ourselves and look at policies that discriminate towards some groups,” and have a clearer understanding of what we need to do.
Bob Schelen: “If you’re a good solider it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is. If you’re a good Boy Scout it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is.” Bob said that although this may be a management issue the correct disclaimer does need to be stapled on a flyer, so that parents see it. He further stated public schools should not allow discriminatory practices at all and that he is bothered with the policy on the national level.
Susan Lovenburg: Susan sad that it’s her understanding that federal law provides an open forum. “My understanding is that federal law, which provides additional funding to our schools, specifically protects the ability of the Boy Scouts and other groups to distribute their messages through our school to home channels. I also know that the current Board recently reviewed the distribution policy and made changes to the language of the disclaimer.” She believes that the work was appropriate and does not need to be revisited.
She further stated that it’s her understanding that a mistake was made this year in distributing flyers with the old version of the disclaimer rather than the new, stating that “mistakes happen, but we need to be sure we learn from them and don’t repeat them.”
Richard Harris: Richard believes that the school board has set a good policy and come up with a good disclaimer. He too stated that the policy on a national level is abhorrent, but made it clear that he knows people involved with the Boy Scouts at a local level who are doing a great job. He expressed hope that with the new superintendent this issue will be resolved. “We just have to put the disclaimer on and do it the right way.”
The next question pertained to the boycott of the STAR exam which took place in Spring, of 2007. The question was asked:
In Spring 2007, some parents boycotted the STAR exam in protest of suspension rates, in-house and otherwise, that are at least twice as high among Black and Latino students as they are among White and Asian students. When surveyed in 2004 and then again in 2006, a majority (50-80%) of Black and Latino students at Davis High and substantial (20-50%) proportion of White and Asian students surveyed believed that Black and Latino students were disciplined more harshly for the same behavior and had their behavior monitored more closely by school officials. 2002/2003 was first and last time in-house suspension rates were measured (at BECA’s request) for 7th through 12th graders. Unduplicated rates showed that 4.7% of White students, 19.2% of Black students, 14.9% of Latino students, 2.1% of Asian students, and 3.4% of Native American students were sent to in-house suspension at least once. How did you feel about the parents’ boycott? After several years of DJUSD boards and administrations knowing about these same data, if you’re elected, how can students and parents have confidence that these data, which suggest double standards of behavior, will change for the better, and when should they expect results?
Joe Spector: Joe said that he is an educator and works “within the system.” He has spent much of his time educating students to take the exam, since it prepares them for higher education. However, he understands that, “there is a time when people with courage no longer tolerate injustice.”
He reflected on a time when he was a member of the negotiating team and there was a potential boycott of teachers. Parents felt that something had to change.
He offered two suggestions.
Joe said that a number of issues relate to problems, so when students are referred to the office to meet with the vice principal the process needs to be improved so that the results are more evenhanded. The conferences with students, parents, teachers, and administrators need to have more sensitivity. Administrators need this training.
He further added that students can be best helped by training them to discuss problems in a calm and collective way to work through the problems.
Bob Schelen: Bob said that he understood the frustration that led to the boycott. He was hesitant to support the boycott of the STAR Test, since if there are not enough students that take the test then the school doesn’t get proper funding. He said that if schools are, “not doing well it makes sense to help them do better to score higher so that schools can get more money.” He believes that the STAR Tests are culturally biased and that the key answer is that we have to treat all students equally and have those policies in place that ensure this.
Susan Lovenburg: Susan said that the school board needs to look at policies in place since many are outdated. She further added that data needs to be collected on an ongoing basis to see if the problem is still going on. She added that we need to look at suspension to see if it’s working. Is suspension working? What is the underlying cause? While she supports automatic suspension for drug and alcohol related issues, she said that when kids challenge authority and are suspended we need to look at communication and how kids get frustrated and let that dictate their behavior. Furthermore, she added that rather than a one time effort we need to look at an ongoing solutions to address this issue.
Richard Harris: “I think a boycott was a manifestation of the frustration with the administration. If I am on the board and I am setting policy, I am not going to tolerate double standards. There is no reason for it to be different.” He said that he has always been concerned about suspensions, because we’re taking kids out of the environment that is going to help them. If kids are a harm to themselves or to others that is different, but it never has made any sense to take a kid out of a learning environment.
In what ways, if any, does a racially/ethnically diverse teaching staff – because of its diversity – impact children’s educational success? Are there ways that teacher racial/ethnic diversity impacts White children as well? Not including high housing costs in Davis and the relatively poor salary and benefits package that DJUSD offers, what obstacles exist in hiring a more diverse group of teachers? What remedies do you recommend to remedy those
Joe Spector: Joe stated that it’s a question about modeling and mentoring. He stated that working in Davis he has noticed that male teachers are the most rare but also, the most sought out. He has talked to teachers outside of Davis who have expressed that they feel that there is little diversity in Davis, so showing them that we support them while addressing issues of high housing costs, poor salary and benefits, we can address the issue of having a more diverse teaching staff.
Bob Schelen: Bob believes that racially or ethnically diverse teaching staff will serve as role models. He further added that all students would be able to have them as role models not just minority students. He believes that a diverse teaching staff would show students that authority figures can be people of different ethnicities. He pushed for a community discussion on the issue stating that, “it is going to be a difficult discussion, but must take place in order to have a more diverse teaching staff.”
Susan Lovenburg: Most positive impact is that students have the opportunity to see teachers from diverse backgrounds as teachers. She stated that she grew up on military bases where people came in all colors and families were often multi-racial and multi-cultural. She further added that these differences were simply unremarkable within our context.
Richard Harris: Richard said that he is probably the person that grew up in the least diverse system having grown up in Sacramento. He believes that the way the district will be successful is to make sure that the teaching staff is diverse. “We have to have more parents who would be willing to come and participate. Just like a business.”
If Valley Oak closes, as a Board member, how, if at all, would you document and publicize, as a means of public accountability and the protection of vulnerable learners’ educations, the educational impact on especially English Learners because of this decision? How will you attempt to ensure that all ELs, especially those from Valley Oak, receive the level of educational services recommended in the UC Davis research report and recommendations?
Joe Spector: “The school that we know right now will close at the end of the year. I’ve been supporting it from the very beginning. I’ve been handing out Valley Oak charter information; because I think it is critical. Now is the time for sign ups.”
Joe expressed concern about the impact it will have on children, not just adults. “If we lose the school they will be separated from friends, adults they know and trust, and from their community that knows their language.”
He said that if we build trust with families and provide long-term training for teachers we can address some of the concerns.
Bob Schelen: Bob believes that the report was excellent. He stated that “we need to look at them [recommendations] and implement them sooner rather than later.” He further made it clear that he is a strong supporter of the Valley Oak charter proposal saying that as a school board member he would make sure that it happens.
Susan Lovenburg: Success for any student starts with learning core curriculum. Our classroom teachers, specialist teachers and paraeducators need the tools to evaluate achievement data and the techniques to address diverse learning needs within the classroom.
With respect to the closure of Valley Oak, we must make timely and effective program and boundary decisions, so that everyone understands the choices available to them.
Richard Harris: “The English learners will be put into situations where their needs are met. When we are presented with the charter if we are on the board then we will have a full analysis by the school district staff. The study that UC Davis did was remarkable.”
—Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald sitting in for Doug Paul Davis