LocationAlhambra , CA
Spurred by a recent incident between a parent and staff at Alhambra High School, the Alhambra Unified School District’s board is considering plans for social justice and equity training programs for administrators and teachers. The board is also moving to adopt a stronger and comprehensive nondiscrimination and harassment policy.
Sharon Harvey, employee development and project manager at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, is working with the district to develop an action plan that emphasizes cultural respect in the multi-ethnic Alhambra school community.
“You’re not just putting out a fire,” Harvey said. “This is saying certain behaviors and responses are not acceptable.” This program is for the long term, she emphasized.
The effort stems from an incident, much viewed and commented upon on multiple social media platforms, in which administrative staff at Alhambra High School appeared to be mocking a Chinese-speaking parent during textbook distribution before classes started.
At the school board’s meeting Tuesday, Harvey posed questions she said the board and district administrators must consider. “How do we move forward from an incident that had a strong emotional reaction?” she said, “What supports might be needed?”
The district and the county Office of Education will be looking at approaches in curriculum changes, how groups are represented and professional development and implicit bias training.
“You’re creating an agreement with the community that says it isn’t that we have supported these things,” Harvey said. “It’s that we want you to know that we do not support these kinds of things.”
Board member Bob Gin said he feels very strongly this policy is something the district should be creating. “It warms my heart,” he said. “I wish we did it a long time ago; it would have set the tone for the district, but hopefully we can set the tone now.”
Superintendent Denise Jaramillo said the district is forming a resolution, and that will be the “promise to ourselves and to our community.”
Keeping in the theme of working on anti-harassment and nondiscrimination, district administrators presented new policies on intervention and prevention, initiating and responding to complaints and restorative practices – including reporting on the work of a committee that worked on transgender and gender non-conforming student protections.
The next steps the district must take once the board adopts the new policies include educating and training staff, students and parents on bullying and harassment policy and updating posted information.
Along with the new nondiscrimination procedures, the district will update its Title IX policy to align with the newest Department of Education guideline’s definition of enforceable harassment. There are new comprehensive training and complaint procedures on the district website and the Title IX coordinator is director of school operations and programs Duane Russell.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law, adopted in 1972, to protect people from discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
In other business, the board heard an overview of the first week of school and adopted the “2020-2021 Distance Learning/COVID-19” memorandum of understanding with the Alhambra Teachers Association for this school year’s learning environment expectations and teaching model.
The family guide, previously announced by the district, is online and available as a resource for parents to view before contacting the district. AUSD’s hope is that this 16 page document will answer FAQs, give contact information and troubleshoot common problems as they come up and might be able to find the answers without having to wait for a response.
The next Board of Education meeting will be on Sept. 15.