Over 40 speakers make public comments, including current, former Hart district students
Several members of the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board used their board reports to address the possibility of a parental-notification policy that saw over 40 people, including current and former students, sign up for public comments at Wednesday’s regular board meeting.
Board President Bob Jensen, representative of Trustee Area No. 2, began the meeting acknowledging that the discussion was withheld from Wednesday’s agenda due to safety concerns.
“On Thursday and Friday of last week, we began to hear, and we continue to hear, that calls had been made by various groups asking external people — and in some cases people within a 100-mile radius — to come to our Nov. 1 board meeting,” Jensen said. “This raised serious safety concerns. The district reached out to law enforcement for additional security, but we were not able to secure sufficient security personnel to attend the meeting.”
The discussion is now tentatively scheduled to take place at the Nov. 15 board meeting. Jensen said that the meeting venue may be changed to accommodate the large number of community members who have asked to speak on the topic.
Jensen urged Santa Clarita Valley and Hart district community members to refrain from bringing “external people” to the meeting, as the board would like to “hear from our community, not from those who are not affected by our decisions.”
Joe Messina, representative of Trustee Area No. 5, was the first to bring up the topic at the governing board’s Oct. 18 meeting when he requested that it be put on the agenda. According to previous reporting in The Signal, Messina was surprised to see that Wednesday’s agenda did not include the parent-notification policy.
On Wednesday, Messina argued for a discussion to be held, stating that community members “deserve a voice.”
“They deserve the ability to address me and then the other representatives on this board,” Messina said.
The policy in question is one that has been brought up at a few school boards in California, with some discussions resulting in violence, Jensen said. Some speakers during public comments on Wednesday said that such a policy would force transgender or queer students to be publicly outed.
Messina disagreed with that sentiment in his board report prior to public comments, saying that the policy would allow for parents to be notified of any issues with their children, including bullying, drug abuse and mental health issues.
“Somewhere, someone tagged this whole thing as a forced-outing policy,” Messina said. “The policy as laid out, as I understand, or as other districts have, goes much further than that. It covers bullying, grades, mental health.
“It should be about full transparency,” Messina continued. “Parents need to know about the rapid mood swings, suicidality, physical injury. If staff perceive a child to be bullied, if their schoolwork changes for the worse, if you’re hanging around with the wrong people, these are all things that parents need to know about so they can help. This is truly about a total student health policy. And not any one issue in particular.”
Of the 40-plus speakers who showed up for public comments on the issue, some were either current students in the Hart district or had recently graduated. One of those was Finn Franti, who graduated from Saugus High School this past spring.
“Let’s not try to sugarcoat it,” Franti said. “This isn’t about bullying or drugs or mental health or anything else. Let’s not pretend like it is. This is about outing gay, trans and non-binary students who don’t feel safe coming out themselves. I don’t know why people keep tiptoeing around this, but if this policy is enacted, children are going to kill themselves. So do the right thing, do the thing you were elected to do, or resign.”
Another speaker, who did not provide a name but identified as a current Hart district student who is queer, said that the policy would put similar students in harm’s way — for example, students who have reason to be fearful of coming out to their parents.
The speaker argued that students should have a right to privacy.
“I’m incredibly disappointed that this policy going through is even an option,” the student said. “If a policy requiring teachers to out kids to their parents goes through, there’ll be so many kids who are in danger. Besides that, what good is supposed to come from this? Why should parents have a right to know this heavily sensitive information about their kids?”
Erin Wilson, representative of Trustee Area No. 4, said that the policy, even if enacted, would take time to implement. Meanwhile, she said, children would still be going through issues that they may not be able to handle themselves.
“Will you please go home tonight and get eyeball-to-eyeball with your student, with your child, get rid of the distractions, don’t take a moment that you have with them for granted,” Wilson said. “If your work schedule isn’t flexible enough to take a walk with your child when they get home, find another time each day that you can really get to know them.
“They may be dealing with challenges that you’re not aware of,” Wilson continued. “Maybe they’re not even aware of them. So, you probably won’t find out today or tomorrow, but as you continue to nurture that relationship, you will find ways to love, guide and protect them that could save their life and definitely benefit yours.”
No action was taken at the meeting as the issue was not on the agenda.