Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 1, 2009

Pop quiz, hotshot


So, I was going to talk about the Boys and Girls Club funding request (Item 6-C) which is coming up before the City Council tonight and being recommended to add to the list of projects to be considered for Measure WW funding.  Interestingly enough, the staff report doesn’t make a spelled out recommendation, only the description in the agenda does.   Anyway, the Interim City Manager is recommending approval.

The bigger news is that the Judge in Pacific Justice Institute case (Lesson 9, opt outs) has made a tentative ruling, you can see the complete tentative ruling on The Island, but here are highlights:

…the Court finds that the inclusion of an opt out right would weaken the implementation of those policies by school districts. The Court finds that measures designed to prevent or discourage discrimination and harassment based on a protected characteristic, and consistent with anti-discrimination/harassment policies created by state law, are entitled to substantial deference. The Court will not require a school district to enact procedures that weaken anti-discrimination and anti-harassment measures absent a compelling showing of legislative intent to require school districts to do so…

…The Court finds that on the evidence presented here, Lesson 9 should not be construed as instruction in health, so as to trigger the opt out rights of Petitioners, because its primary thrust is to provide instruction to prevent discrimination and harassment of students based on the perceived or actual sexual orientation of the students or their families. To the extent that Lesson 9 includes instruction that might be characterized as health instruction, that crossover is essentially unavoidable and incidental, since instruction designed to foster tolerance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (”LGBT”) families must necessarily include discussion of issues relating to families…

Of course this is only a tentative ruling and could change, but is indicative of how the Judge plans on ruling in the case.  And if you haven’t been following along to the School Board meetings around the community effort to address the concerns of parents who were against the Lesson 9 curriculum, Susan Davis has a good update on In Alameda about what happened at the last School Board meeting.

And the frustration surrounding the community effort to try to come up with a compromise has been reflected in this pop quiz (it is a School issue after all) by AUSD parent Michael Williams.   No prizes for getting the answers correct, just the smug satisfaction of knowing the rituals of the School Board without needing to sit for hours listening.   And…the quiz:

1. Which statement reflects School Board Member Trish Spencer’s true beliefs?

a. It’s important for students to see themselves reflected in the curriculum.

b. Just teaching a generic anti-bullying curriculum, without speaking specifically about the groups that usually get targeted for bias and bullying, is the best way to address all “protected classes” of kids.

c. Both of the above.

I’m sorry, you are incorrect; the answer is c. The first statement is from the August 25th School Board meeting, the second from November 24th. How can she believe both things? Here’s a hint: Both were the answers that, at the time, effectively obstructed an anti-bullying curriculum supplement for protecting LGBT kids and families.

Okay, let’s try another.

2. According to School Board President Mike McMahon, when is the best time to clarify that addressing all six “protected classes” (i.e., disability, gender, nationality, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation) in an anti-bullying curriculum was “never my issue”?

a. Before community volunteers and overburdened teachers spend hours, at the Board’s and Superintendent’s request, trying to find curricula that address all protected classes.

b. After community volunteers and overburdened teachers have spent hours, at the Board’s and Superintendent’s request, trying to find curricula that address all protected classes.

Ooh, bad luck again! The correct answer is b. Remember, look for the answer that comes closest to “I told you so.”

On to another Spencer mind-bender:

3. What is the best process for reviewing curricula?

a. A volunteer team of teachers from across the district, recruited in an intensive school-by-school effort, acting in a guided and community-member-observed process, can be trusted to act out of their professionalism and love for our children to recommend valid curricula based on community criteria, and then a diverse community group would review their recommendations.

b. Only a coerced selection of teachers, precisely one from each school, that exactly mirrors the demographics of district students can validly say anything about anti-bullying curricula. After that, every single protected class (race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) needs to go through an identical, dragged-out community hearing process that gives an open forum to anyone who doesn’t like their kind.

Yes, it is b. Good, you got one! You remembered my hint from Number 1. Also, for future reference, when in doubt choose the answer that represents the most micromanaging, least trustful approach to the people we pay to teach our children.

Don’t be discouraged. You may be disadvantaged because you missed out on the November 24th School Board meeting. So here’s an oldie, again from our favorite source.

4. According to Trish Spencer, what do these stories have in common?

Winnie the Pooh
And Tango Makes Three
Ananzi the Spider
The Tortoise and the Hare
Charlotte’s Web

That’s correct: They’re about animals and have nothing to teach our children about human relationships. And this criticism must be repeated over and over even if it has long since received the appropriate, logical answer.

Okay, for the tie-breaker:

5. What will happen if decent Alamedans fail to attend the School Board meeting on the 8th of December, and miss their opportunity to advocate for curricula that truly protect our kids?

a. More kids will be called “faggot” and “nigger” and “retard” without adults knowing how to intervene.

b. Kids will feel silent pressure to act ashamed of their same-gender parents.

c. Black, Latino, and gay kids will continue to fall behind academically.

d. We’ll cross our fingers for a while longer, in hopes that bullied kids in our town won’t get seriously hurt, hurt themselves, or kill themselves.

e. All of the above.

That’s right. Go to the front of the class!

The tentative ruling has been affirmed.


  1. “What will happen if decent Alamedans fail to attend the School Board meeting on the 8th of December, and miss their opportunity to advocate for curricula that truly protect our kids?”

    Gimme a break. Lesson 9 is all about making your “decent Alamedans” feel good. Once the plan is taught these same people will feel hunky-dory but everything else will be the same.

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 1, 2009 @ 8:58 am

  2. >>> but everything else will be the same.

    The thing that will change, unfortunately, will most likely be less support for renewing the parcel taxes needed to float the schools. But otherwise… human nature remains the same.

    Comment by Jack B. — December 1, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  3. 2. I think a court ruling in favor will neutralize the issue for the purpose of the parcel tax, except among some die hards who probably won’t leave it alone. The entire issue will no doubt result in a loss of yes votes from the H campaign for example and I count one I am sure of among the plaintiffs in the suit, but it’s too late to turn back.

    1. as much as this may in part be about feeling good, why denigrate that? I personally do not cynically dismiss #5 of the quiz. Any possible positive effects do make me feel better as did reading the post.

    Kudos to Michael Williams, the quiz is Daily Show/Colbert Report quality humor and every bit as effective in making a point.

    Comment by M.I. — December 1, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  4. Ouch, the cynicism!

    For Comment #1, I’ll take heart in documented evidence showing that anti-bullying curricula work, especially those that speak directly about the groups who get targeted.

    For #2, I’ll invest hope that our neighbors aren’t so petty as to endanger the whole infrastructure of our children’s education because of sour grapes over one School Board curricular decision (for which there was no option that would please everyone).

    Comment by Michael Williams — December 1, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  5. And thank you MI.

    Comment by Michael Williams — December 1, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  6. #4. As I recollect, Measure H barely squeaked by. 100 “petty” votes made the tip.

    Comment by Jack B. — December 1, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  7. # 4 Ouch, the cynicism!
    Who’s the cynic? One who thinks kids are inherently bad and prone to bullying and must be taught otherwise, or one you thinks kids are inherently good and teaching time would be better spent by teaching kids how to read and understand what they read?

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 1, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  8. # 4 again
    Oh, and documented evidence? I suppose you’d go around the schoolyard and determine through some sort of ninth sense which kids would have been bullied except for lesson # 9.

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 1, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  9. That ruling was so gay …

    … when are we going to introduce a curriculum to protect the redheads from Ginger bashing???

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — December 1, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  10. 8. Are teen suicide stats enough? Need we quibble over which were persecuted as gay? or can we agree to have a little compassion here for children and young adults trying to cope with a confusing and often hostile world? With adults like .9 JRT how can you be so confident about school yard behavior?

    Comment by M.I. — December 1, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  11. Does any one know what happened to the recall of the school board members who voted for the curriculum? No one I know has seen any signature gathering taking place currently, which seems strange. There were people gathering signatures this summer at the Webster St. Jam, but that is the only sighting I have heard about. Has the effort been abandoned or is it being done only within specific communities? I am curious.

    Comment by Kate Quick — December 2, 2009 @ 8:11 am

  12. #10
    Mind sharing your knowledge of and source for Alameda teen suicides? Or am I quibbling?

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 2, 2009 @ 8:30 am

  13. 12. Do I need to provide a body count to validate my point, Jack? I think your demanding one proves something, but I’m not sure what.

    To my knowledge there has thankfully been just one teen suicide in the last few years and I don’t believe it was related to LGBT. Maybe the low number is because we don’t have CalTrain tracks conveniently located like in Palo Alto, but I’d like to think it is because we are a caring community. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to do our best by taking measures like Lesson 9 to keep it that way.

    Comment by M.I. — December 2, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

  14. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of kid suicide stats in Alameda, M.I. (I kinda thought you had none to back up your point.) but I must quibble with your descriptive word choice in this sentence:

    # 13 “I think your demanding one proves something, but I’m not sure what.”

    First, I “demanded” nothing. So that comment is patently false. As far as my “asking” you to share your source having some sort of ulterior motive…well, I think that you sharing your “knowledge”, was the motive.

    Please do not consider this as criticism. I consider your opinions as being those of the mainstream in this community and value them as such.

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 3, 2009 @ 8:51 am

  15. #14 Take a look at GLSEN’s National Climate Survey interviewing more than 6000 kids. If this is going on around the country it is going on here. How could it not be with people like you promoting intollerance so strongly in public forums.

    Click to access 1475-1.pdf

    Ther are no statistics kept in Alameda on the cause of suicide. I’m sure you already knew that but it makes you hollow arguments appear bigger doesn’t it.

    Comment by Gary — December 4, 2009 @ 11:46 am

  16. The concern expressed here for kids’ safety leads me back to the original intent of my little exercise: To encourage those who care to contact the School Board or attend their December 8 meeting to advocate for the strongest, most inclusive anti-bullying curriculum possible, taking away none of the current protections.

    Comment by Michael Williams — December 4, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

  17. And nobody knows nuttin’ about the recall progress?

    Comment by Kate Quick — December 4, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  18. Hi Kate: Michele Ellson did a quickie update about it, but not too much info though, I think the recall proponents are keeping their cards close to the vest:

    The recall, incidentally, is moving forward, proponent Kellie Wood told The Island last week. She wouldn’t say how far S.E.R.V.E. Alameda, the group responsible for the recall effort against Nielsen Tam, Ron Mooney and Tracy Jensen, had gotten in its signature collection efforts. The group’s deadline for collecting enough signatures to qualify for a ballot is December 29.

    “We are moving forward. There’s no turning back,” Wood said.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 4, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  19. I would guess they are going to come up far short of the 9000+ signatures they need. Has anyone ever seen SERVE gathering signatures any where in town? They needed to mount a major collection effort in order to be successful. There is no momentum in the general population to recall the board members. This is all a publicity stunt to scare the board memebers into dropping lesson 9. That’s how the politics of hate works.

    Comment by Gary — December 4, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  20. # 15
    Methinks you doth protest too much, Gary. I’m pretty sure there are no “people like me” who promote intolerance since I don’t promote tolerance or intolerance. I just like to read and comment on musings that seem odd, agenda driven, unsupported by facts or those I just don’t agree with or do agree with.

    For instance one interesting item that caught my eye was on the Alameda Sun’s December 3, 2009, front page. The item is about two thirds down the second column, and I quote:

    “Board members were also unsure as to how many books AUSD would need to purchase to teach the recommended curriculum. It was uncertain to board members whether there needed to be six different books taught at each grade level, one for each protected class, or if the district would need fewer or more books to teach the students. Zepeda is expected to give the board a recommended literature list for the new curriculum in February.”

    I strongly support the six different books per protected class per student per grade level argument. I also strongly implore the California Legislature to search their collective minds and find a few more classes to protect. I think it would be a good thing if each and every person has her/his/? own class so that other members of other classes can study ways not to bully them.

    Comment by Jack Richard — December 4, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

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