Recap: Vote 16, Lowell BSU, Condom policy

Tuesday evening was very emotional, with lots of highs and lows. Among the highs: the amazing testimony from students on the Vote 16 resolution I  co-sponsored with President Haney and Commissioner Fewer. Parents and other adults are often skeptical about lowering the voting age, but after listening to the testimony of the young people who came to talk to us, I challenge anyone to say they aren’t ready to weigh in on the important issues of the day.

Commissioner Fewer and I are also sponsoring a related resolution that would, regardless of whether Vote16 passes or not, educate students about their right to pre-register to vote ahead of turning 18.  Voting is a habit, and studies show that the earlier one gets into the habit, the more likely one is to become a lifelong voter. I’ve even heard that it takes new voters four consecutive election cycles to actually get in the habit. In SFUSD, every senior takes American Democracy and that is a perfect training ground for new or prospective voters. While we need to be careful that undocumented or otherwise ineligible students don’t register or pre-register in violation of state and Federal laws, it’s still worthwhile to use the state’s existing Elections code to encourage every eligible student to pre-register, or otherwise exercise their voting rights.

Students, parents and alumni from Lowell HS came to talk to us in the wake of a horribly racist and upsetting incident at the school. (And may I just say that I am in AWE of these amazing young women leaders).  The video below is over 30 minutes, but I think anyone who cares about social justice and wants to be careful and respectful around issues of race and privilege should watch it and reflect. There’s a history here, one that is painful and ugly and not discussed enough. I don’t have a lot of answers at this point but I think it’s crucial to hear:

Oh and then there is the condom policy. I’m going to post the Superintendent’s remarks on the policy, and then my own, because (if I do say so myself) I think we covered the issues. I get that on its face, in the way the proposed policy has been framed by the media, it sounds alarming. My children aren’t in middle school anymore, but if they were I would not be worried at all by our current policy. I talk to my kids about keeping safe if they are contemplating sexual activity, and most parents I know do as well. The kids we are hoping to reach are those who don’t have parents to talk to, and I trust and thank school nurses and social workers for the care they are providing to our most vulnerable students already. This limited policy change will give these educators an additional tool to help students who really need assistance and adult guidance. I’ve received some email from religious activists claiming that our policy will  hurt young women who are in exploitative relationships, but I don’t agree at all. The whole point of the policy is to encourage vulnerable children to have an honest conversation in a safe space with a trusted adult.

Superintendent Carranza’s comments:

My comments:

Finally, we also got an update on the third year of implementation of the Safe and Supportive Schools resolution which has sought to transform the district’s discipline policies while decreasing the amount of time students spend out of the classroom for behavior issues (referrals, suspensions and expulsions are all part of this issue). The update can be summed up by the two charts below: on the one hand, we are making real progress in reducing suspensions:





But on the other hand, suspensions are still disproportionately of African-American students:



There’s more data in the powerpoint posted above.

Important parent engagement event next week – please make sure this flyer (page one is in English and page 2 is in Chinese) is distributed at your school sites, particularly to monolingual Chinese-speaking families – the district is hosting a special parent engagement event in Cantonese (with English interpretation) at Jean Parker Elementary School next Saturday, March 5. The event represents what I hope is a first step in real efforts to engage and inform Chinese-speaking families about curriculum and other initiatives in the district. I think we have to do a lot more in parent engagement across all communities but recent events and conversations have convinced me we have a particularly urgent problem in the Chinese community.


5 responses to “Recap: Vote 16, Lowell BSU, Condom policy

  1. Regarding your comments in the looonge night:

    I really don’t know what hurt this incident caused. Hurt feelings? Nor do I know if some or most were offended. I have been the target of offensive comments but I was not offended. I saw It more as a reflection on the offender them me. I do know that many disagreed with the beliefs and opinions expressed by the “incident” where an individual student made unauthorized use of a school bulletin board to express his opinions. You heard from them at you meeting. It would have been interesting to hear from the other side.

    If incident means hearing comments made by students who share the beliefs and opinions of the student who made the poster, I would agree, it is not isolated incident. Very many students and their parents have expressed similar opinions and beliefs over the years. You hear those beliefs and opinions all the time whenever affirmative action is discussed.

    I doubt the Board come up with a policy that will change those with strongly held beliefs. Those who hold those beliefs can be threatened with punishment for expressing their opinions but it is not likely to change them. A better approach is to get them to openly express those opinions and ask them to defend their beliefs.

    I like the young woman who in her freshman year lacked confidence in herself and had a terrible year. She overcame. She decided she was equal or better than other students and had a much right to attend Lowell as anyone else. She proceeded to prove it by working hard. That change in approach won her friends and may have changed beliefs.

    My advice to students who are the targets of negative comments is: Illegitimi non carborundum

  2. No. Now Peer Resources is out there.

  3. Does Lowell High School still have all its Special Education classrooms in bungalows in its parking lot?

  4. My son is at Lowell. I am so impressed with the BSU. Watching and listening to these students speak was inspiring. These young people are the future I hope for our country.

    I also commend the Lowell Newspaper which has been covering this story.

    I support condoms in Middle School. With the popularity of red-shirting children? There is a wide range in middle school. Some of the kids in 8th grade are the same age as 9th graders in high school.

    I do not think parents should be notified because that would defeat the purpose of this, which is to provide a confidential space to talk about things a child might not feel comfortable talking to their parents about. These students can not access the condoms without talking to an adult first. The adult in charge won’t just hand one over. They will engage in a educational dialog about early sexual activity and hopefully this will result in the young person rethinking the decision. However, if they don’t reconsider? At least they are protected. .

    I was confused by the comments coupling Algebra and Condoms myself. Until I was told that the slang for condoms and Algebra are homophones in a Chinese language. Is this right? If so, I think it was a cultural inside joke as it were?

    I’ve already made my strong disagreement known to the district’s math implementation. There really is nothing more to be said from me about that.

    However, I do have a lot of thoughts around the racism conversations. I sent your colleague, Mr. Walton, an email in response to his powerful editorial in the Examiner.

    I feel an important missing component in all this is to address how our children are living in their on-line worlds.

    I see some of the memes reblogged/re tweeted with no thought or consequence.

    We treat on-line life as not real, but it is real. How our young people behave toward each other on-line bleeds in to every aspect of their lives.

    I feel at least there is a underlying culture of callousness created. I think along with teaching our kids cyber safety? We have to teach them social media ethics from a young age. So by the time they reach high school they understand better that their words and the images they share have meaning and can be very damaging to others.

  5. I completely relate to the black community who have represented themselves so well. Though I am white, my son is severely disabled and I feel we face the same discrimination in SFUSD as does the black community.

    San Francisco does not seem very enlightened toward the disabled community as I hear the black community feels as well.

    I think Rachel Norton is doing a great job trying to help all of us in this very difficult battle.