A study session will be scheduled for a future date to further discuss the nondiscrimination policy

PASO ROBLES — It was a full house at the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) Tuesday night, Aug. 9. The first item up for discussion on the agenda was the discussion on potential updates made to a nondiscrimination/harassment policy.

After hearing over twenty public comments on the policy, board trustees voted unanimously to table the policy for future discussion in a study session.

A drafted redlined version of Board Policy 5145.3 — Nondiscrimination/Harassment was presented with updated language by the California School Board Association (CSBA).

This is not the first time the policy has been tabled this year. The policy was presented as an information item during the March 22 meeting with language recommended by CSBA. It was decided by the Board to table the item for a future meeting for further review. 

Cunningham Law Group Attorney Shauna Cunningham presented their redlined version of the policy — their version was specifically redlined against the CSBA recommended policy.

Cunningham explained they were asked to make sure the regulation complied with the law but did not add any additional requirements that went beyond what the law required. She further explained that specific language was cut out of their version because the CSBA policy had extra language of definitions that are not used throughout the legal context itself.

Parents, teachers, and community members stood at the podium to speak Tuesday night. There was a clear split view of the policy, but it was clear no one was in support of the updated proposed policy.

The policy outlines a uniform complaint procedure relating to illegal discrimination and harassment of students.

One point of concern within the policy for parents and residents in the public comment was a large section removed from the policy that outlined specific students: “Issues Unique to Intersex, Nonbinary, Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students.”

They disagreed with its removal feeling it left the students unprotected.

However, the portion of the policy left in place upset another side of the argument — specifically the portion pertaining to “Accessibility to Sex-Segregated Facilities, Programs, and Activities.”

This section of the policy states:

When the district maintains sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, or offers sex-segregated programs and activities, such as physical education classes, intermural sports, and interscholastic athletic programs, students shall be permitted to access facilities and participate in programs and activities with their gender identity. 

To address any student’s privacy concerns in using sex-segregated facilities, the district shall offer available options such as a gender-neutral or single-use restroom or changing area, a bathroom stall with a door, an area in the locker room separated by a curtain or screen, or use of the locker room before or after the other students. 

However, the district shall not require a student to utilize these options because the student is intersex, nonbinary, transgender or gender-nonconforming. 

In addition, a student shall be permitted to participate in accordance with the student’s gender identity in other circumstances where students are separated by gender, such as for class discussions, yearbook pictures, and field trips. A student’s right to participate in a sex-segregated activity in accordance with the student’s gender identity shall not render invalid or inapplicable any other eligibility rule established for participation in the activity.

Following public comment, Superintendent Curt Dubost made another statement in regards to some public concern from the handling of a student incident involving a Pride Flag and training that was conducted with teachers earlier this year.

“We fully commit to making sure that all staff is exposed to and trained in the laws that exist. 

In no way, shape, or form am I or the district shirking from the commitment that we made to those wonderful kids who had the grace to forgive me for the mistakes that I made in my initial handling of it, and my commitment to those kids is unwavering. But I am also responsible for all the other kids in the school. I am. And so, we have to determine exactly what the law is and be fair to everybody. 

But I stand here before any of you on the record saying that my commitment to the kids I have been meeting with has not wavered and will not.”

Board Trustee Chris Bausch motioned to again table the discussion, which was seconded by Trustee Dorian Baker.

Bausch explained his reason for tabling the discussion a second time, “Because I don’t think we made anybody happy here tonight. We have had complaints on both sides; it doesn’t go far enough; it goes too far, or too much has been cut. I would welcome the opportunity to bring this back and have another try at it.”

The rest of the Board echoed his feelings that they were not ready to make a decision on this policy.

Board Trustee Nathan Williams explained his reasoning, “I don’t feel that this is appropriate to vote on at this time. I feel like we do need to explore this more. I think we need to have more discussions on this. There is too much left open that I don’t feel comfortable with.”

Another trustee agreed to table the policy; Trustee Frank Triggs said, “Nobody in our school should be bullied regardless of what your preferences are.”

The Board unanimously agreed to table to discuss and bring it back through a separate study session. They did not decide on a date for the study session; Board President Chris Arend said they will work to get more input and “let it simmer” in the community first before setting a date.

The next PRJUSD meeting is scheduled for Aug. 23 at 6 p.m.