A Saugus Union School District Board member criticized a privacy bill penned by Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Antelope Valley, during the SUSD’s board meeting Tuesday.
“I was really disappointed that to some extent we were targeted to be an example that there’s vulnerability that exists within our district,” board member Paul De La Cerda said during the meeting, referring to Wilk’s bill that prohibits governing bodies from publishing the private contact information of students or parents in their meeting minutes.
Wilk originally penned the legislation in February, after a student’s grandmother who spoke during the public comment portion of an SUSD meeting learned that her residential address had been published as part of the official record of the meeting’s minutes, Wilk said.
Senate Bill 1036, which passed the House and Senate, and is currently awaiting a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown, would prohibit releasing the personal contact information of a student or parent in meeting minutes of a governing body.
De La Cerda said the district should make strides to educate local legislators on its efforts to promote safety among students and parents.
“We have been proactive and we need everyone’s help here to send a message to the senator to do his homework next time he wants to call out a district like ours,” De La Cerda said. “You think he would’ve done his homework. But he’s not perfect, and neither are his staffers, and we all make mistakes.
“We’re working hard here to make our schools safe,” he said. “We still have a lot more steps ahead of us, and it comes in different planning stages, and it’s coming.”
Board President Chris Trunkey said he had spoken to Wilk about the issue before he developed the legislation.
“He wanted to see how he had addressed the issue,” Trunkey said, “and the bill I think he’s done is a solution to confine in the education code, the solution we had where it gives the person the option to withhold their personal information.”
De La Cerda said he wasn’t aware Wilk and Trunkey had met, but said Wilk “still made a mistake” in singling out the district as an example to the press.
“It would have been nice to know, ‘Hey, by the way, I’m going to be stating your school district’ (in the bill)… I feel what was represented was not fair in stating that we did not have a system that discloses regarding when parents come to speak, so the homework wasn’t done in that case,” De La Cerda said.
Wilk said he had met with then-SUSD Superintendent Joan Lucid at the time, and the district subsequently changed its policy.
“But just because they changed their policy doesn’t mean other school districts have,” Wilk said, explaining the impetus for the bill. “I went onward with the bill because I think every parent should have their privacy protected. I’m going to do the bill anyway because there are hundreds of school districts across the state, and Joan said she understood that.”
Wilk said De La Cerda could’ve written a letter or called Wilk at the time of the bill’s introduction if he wanted to complain, “which neither of those things have occurred,” he added.
De La Cerda on Wednesday said he thought the bill was important, but would have preferred more open communication about the Saugus district being cited in it.
The district subsequently added an “opt out” box for public commenters to withhold their private information, and De La Cerda said he wanted more open communication after the issue had been already resolved.
“We were proactive in taking it upon ourselves to have the local control over the situation ourselves and took the matter into our own hands,” he said. “I would have liked to see and continue to see is that whenever a bill is going to be presented and cite a reference to another public agency such as ours, it would’ve been great for someone from his office to reach out to our board and let us know we’re going to be broaching this issue to help our community.
“I didn’t know as a board member. I had no prior knowledge we were going to be cited,” he said. It’s just a message of communication within the legislative offices and the school boards that we can work more closely together. For whatever reason, that information was never passed down to the school board.”
Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill into law.