The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board selected board members Joe Messina and Cherise Moore at Wednesday’s regular meeting to lead a review of existing notification policies within the district’s Board Policy Manual.
Messina, who represents Trustee Area No. 5, offered to be part of the ad hoc committee, along with Moore, who represents Trustee Area No. 3, at the district’s previous board meeting. The student board member, Oluwadara Falodun, was also invited to be a part of the review process.
Governing board President Bob Jensen, who represents Trustee Area No. 2, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the purpose of the committee will be to “further look into matters of parental engagement and parental involvement within the Hart district.”
“The subcommittee would be considered a limited purpose, temporary advisory ad hoc committee that would review existing district policies and consider modifications thereof, and/or potential new policies regarding parental engagement and parental involvement,” Jensen said.
Moore said that there is not yet a timeline for the review to be completed.
The issue first came up at the district’s Nov. 1 meeting, one in which more than 40 people spoke about a potential parental notification policy for the district. Some argued for more parent involvement while others wanted to allow students to retain their rights to privacy, even from their own parents.
The agenda for that meeting did not include a parental notification item due to, as Jensen said at the meeting, “safety concerns.” He said the district had attempted to obtain additional security for the meeting after hearing of a large group of people wishing to attend the meeting, but was unsuccessful at the time.
At the district’s next board meeting on Nov. 15, Wendy Wiles, a partner at the law firm of Atkinson, Anderson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, delivered a presentation on what other school districts in California have adopted as parental notification policies. Some of them, she said, were similar, while others were different.
All of them were met with lawsuits from plaintiffs ranging from parents to state Attorney General Rob Bonta, Wiles said.
A three-hour public comment session was then held to allow community members to voice their opinions. One of the main arguments against a potential policy was that students were fearful that it could be seen as a “forced outing policy” that would see teachers, school staff and district officials be forced to tell parents if their child comes out as LGBTQ.
The main argument for those in favor of a potential policy was that parents should have the right to know what is happening with their children at school.
Kathy Hunter, the district’s assistant superintendent of student services, safety and wellness, said at Wednesday’s meeting that “there’s no practice about anything to do with outing a student who is gay.”
“The counselors are all protected,” Hunter said. “So, any student goes to a counselor, that conversation with that counselor is still protected communication. They would never be picking up a phone and calling a parent regarding that conversation.”
Dawn Walker, a parent of four Hart district graduates and the president of PFLAG SCV, spoke during the public comment period on this item on Wednesday. She said that she has reviewed Regulation 5145.3 in the policy manual, which states that the district shall “annually notify all students and families/guardians of the district’s nondiscrimination policy, including its responsibility to provide a safe, nondiscriminatory school environment for all students, including transgender and gender-nonconforming students. The notice shall inform students and families/guardians that they may request to meet with the compliance officer to determine how best to accommodate or resolve concerns that may arise from the district’s implementation of its nondiscrimination policies. The notice shall also inform all students and families/guardians that, to the extent possible, the district will address any individual student’s interests and concerns in private.”
Walker, who said that her son was the first person in the Hart district to change pronouns, said that this regulation should suffice to protect students.
“This policy is beautiful as it stands and I commend the Hart district for protecting queer youth,” Walker said. “Please consider keeping this policy as it is. It is extensive, current, relevant, enforceable and protective of this vulnerable group.”
Messina has told The Signal previously that he believes that parents should have the right to be notified about “everything.”
The motion to approve the committee and place Messina and Moore on it was approved unanimously by the governing board.