District initiatives take on intolerance

BY JOHNNY MULLIGAN
[email protected]

 

Roseville Joint Union High School District is poised to address cultural insensitivity throughout the district with an updated policy directed towards hate speech and hate crimes.

The new policy, proposed by the RJUHSD executive director of personnel services Brad Basham, at the Oct. 27 school board meeting, sets guidelines for investigators to follow after a hateful activity is reported. The investigation process originally mirrored the procedure implemented in cases of sexual harassment, but now racial insensitivity cases have their own specific protocol.

“It is similar to the process for sexual harassment in terms of investigation and follow up,” Basham said.

The district has always had policies regarding hate crimes but they were not as formal as other policies regarding investigation procedure.
“It will outline the investigation process and consequences would be much like they were before,” Basham said. “[Which is] anywhere from counselling and warnings all the way up to expulsions. We follow the same progressive discipline policy that we always would follow, we just formalized the investigation process.”

Punishments will continue to vary from case to case depending on the severity of the crime and past offences of the perpetrator. The policy was also updated to avoid having different cases handled in different ways and to solidify how administration handles all hate speech and crimes.

“When you put it in the board policy it gives it a title and sends a message to the community and our parents that we take this seriously and it is not something we tolerate,” Basham said.

Along with updating the district’s policy, RJUHSD is taking other steps to combat hate-motivated activity within the district.

At Roseville High School, several teachers have been attending teacher training days specific to this, both off-campus and on-campus. According to RHS principal David Byrd, schools throughout the district have worked closely with the founder of the Acosta Latino Learning Partnership, Curtis Acosta, regarding cultural sensitivity.

“Curtis Acosta is working with three of our schools and comes over and does professional development with our teachers,” Byrd said.

In response to hate-related problems last year at Oakmont High School, OHS principal Robert Hasty, along with RJUHSD administration, invited speakers for a “Sustaining Cultures and Strengthening Communities” series to feature at OHS.

“This was brainchild of Hasty,” Basham said. “I know that it stems back to last year, when OHS had some incidents regarding hate-motivated behavior.”

At first, the series was intended for the OHS community, but then was opened up to all of the district.

“We are trying to do a good job of educating students and staff and decided it should be bigger than OHS and invited the whole district to come and listen,” Basham said.

Once a month a speaker will come to OHS and discuss values that different cultures can bring to a community. The speeches range from “Culture-Sustaining Dialogue: Pushing Conversation Norms” to “What Coaching can Teach Teachers.”

Margarita Berta-Avila was the first speaker of the series, presenting at the Oakmont High School theater on Oct. 26.

“What the speaker series is going to try to do is offer opportunities to discuss the richness of diversity and how we can be thinking about that in the context of a school community, in the context of classrooms and teachers and how students, teachers and the community members at large communicate with one another,” Berta-Avila said.

According to Byrd, RHS is continuing to help students of different cultural backgrounds feel equal regarding resources from the community.
“[We try to] have ongoing conversation about making sure our classroom environment is a solid tight knit community where kids get along and everybody respects one another and knows each other,” Byrd said. “Make sure no kids are falling through cracks because of language or socioeconomic background. We need to break down some barriers.”

Roseville High School has seen few hate crimes in recent years, according to Byrd.

“We’ve been fortunate because we’ve been doing some things well,” Byrd said. “We haven’t had those kinds of episodes and [we] want to keep that going.”