MARTINEZ -- The school board tackled transgender policies, school safety, technology and transparency at their first meeting after summer break.
At the Aug. 11 meeting, Helen Rossi, director of student services and secondary support, outlined district plans for transgender law AB1266 compliance.
"Gender identity refers to the internal sense of gender, not the physical. It's the core identity," Rossi explained. "There will be no exclusion to any activity that already exists."
That means a student can self-identify with a different gender and request to be called by an alias consistent with the specified identification (also for school records), and school authorities must accommodate the student without informing his or her parents.
"Confidentiality plays a part," Rossi said. "Teachers must call them by their alias and be trained in what is allowable."
Martinez school board president John Fuller asked what happens if the child tells the school and not the parents. Rossi said the school could not tell the parents, but the student would be encouraged to communicate with his or her parents.
School personnel will educate students and be further trained to prevent any harassment or bullying. Teachers are mandated to report harassment, according to Rossi, and self gender-identified students may use any restroom and participate in any sports team consistent with his or her self-identification.
The rules could make a significant change in athletic competition, as the California Interscholastic Federation has adopted the same rules, Rossi said.
Board member Denise Elsken asked about the privacy rights of the other students.
Rossi said she is not expecting any problems.
Also as part of the district's nondiscrimination policy, Rossi noted foreign language requirements.
"Published materials must be provided in a foreign language if there are 15 percent or more foreign students," she said.
The law applies to all school activities, camps, and student and parent information, including handbooks. The board approved Rossi's plan.
In other business, chief of technology Max Eissler said the district is launching a new program where every student in grades 9-12 is able to check out a Chromebook to use at home and school throughout the year.
He said that during the summer half a dozen new servers were installed and the network systems replaced, and there were upgrades to approximately 700 desktop computers throughout the district and to another 200 laptop computers.
"We also setup, configured and distributed 1,400 new Chromebooks and 200 new iPads," Eissler said later.
Technology was also part of Assistant Superintendent David Robertson's summer research to develop a districtwide safety and security plan. More motion-activated lighting, walkie-talkies and surveillance cameras are being considered as part of a plan that Robertson said must be site specific and account for the surrounding area, student behaviors, after school uses and more.
Robertson analyzed the Las Juntas and John Swett elementary school sites using FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) guidelines.
With safety experts from Shell and other consultants, Robertson walked the grounds of both schools to develop a list of recommendations for the board's consideration which included identity badges for everyone on campus, limited points of entry, anti-climb fencing, improved lighting, new districtwide policies and procedures, including hours of opening and closing, and personnel training.
The board discussed the relative value of cameras, prioritizing safety verses security, relative costs, privacy issues, window shades, emergency exit gates and the potential need for more personnel.
There was immediate, unanimous approval on identification requirement, prioritized with badges, fencing with limited point of entry. Further decisions were postponed until more specific details are available.
Nor was any decision made on the possibility of recording or videotaping board meetings. Parents have questioned why their public comments are not noted in board minutes.
Superintendent Rami Muth said, "The minutes are only a brief summary," and they are kept according to district policy.
"When the public speaks, they are identified by name and topic."
Board member Kathi McLaughlin opposed any omission.
"We don't have any other method of keeping a record."
Parent Julie Betti and another speaker echoed McLaughlin's concern about the lack of a complete public record.
"It is very important to have everyone understand what is going on," Betti asserted. "Because we are a district that promotes technology and is forward-thinking, the meetings should be videotaped."
Contact Dana Guzzetti at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-202-9292.