ASB President sworn in as PRJUSD student trustee
PASO ROBLES — The new Paso Robles Joint Unified School District student trustee, Olivia Wright, was introduced and sworn in at the Tuesday night board meeting. She currently serves as Paso Robles High School’s ASB President.
Later in the meeting, following much debate from residents and board members, the board trustees approved resolution no. 23-02 “Resolution No. 23-02 Regarding the Use of Traditional Titles” with a 4-3 vote (Trustees Nathan Williams, Tim Gearhart, and Lance Gannon voting no).
Prior to public comment, Superintendent Curt Dubost made a statement regarding the resolution.
“The entitled of the resolution is to clarify for staff, parents, and students guidance for addressing individuals or a class or a group of students or parents with traditional titles.
Individual students who have changed their name and gender must be afforded that right. But a staff member who mistakenly or inadvertently misuses the name will not be disciplined unless the misuse is intentional.”
The resolution, which was a response to a recent NEA National Education Association proposal now dropped to ban traditional salutations, raised questions among parents and staff. It specifically reads:
Public debate has created confusion and concern among some parents and staff regarding the use of traditional and gender-specific titles;
This resolution does not compel speech nor restrict freedom of speech.
Paso Robles Joint Unified School District will not support any mandate which replaces traditional gender-specific names such as mother and father, Mr. and Mrs., ladies and gentlemen, and boys and girls.
Dubost stated that while some staff are reluctant to attend “any training that goes beyond any fundamental mandates and crosses into areas they believe may go too far,” they are not against protecting all of their students.
The conversation held Tuesday night is somewhat of a continuation of the last school board meeting on Aug. 11, where the board discussed potential updates made to a nondiscrimination/harassment policy — specifically the removal of the line “Issues Unique to Intersex, Nonbinary, Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students.”
Many disagreed with its removal feeling it left the students unprotected.
That policy change was in response to teacher and staff training which became controversial. Dubost addressed that in his statement as well.
He said, “Some parents are very concerned. This is particularly true of some training videos and topics that became controversial and hence were not presented at the end of the last school year. The board was minimally informed of the diversity panel’s proposed activities and trainings last spring through their updates, but there was never any formal action item to approve the specific plans, and hence some issues arose. Some mistook, I think, that lack of an informal action for a lack of transparency. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Ending his statement, Dubost said, “So again, my goal, for better or for worse in the three years that I have been here, is not to take one side or the other but to try and craft a compromise in the middle. Sometimes I’ve been successful; sometimes, I’m not. It has succeeded in having both sides frequently mad at me, and I understand that. That’s kind of the nature of compromise. But again, I think that is my job to try and find a way to represent all, not just some, of our students and all of the community in which I represent.”
During public comment, the board again heard from parents, students, and the community with arguments for and against the policy.
Some felt the resolution was not inclusive with its specific statement “will not support any mandate which replaces traditional gender-specific names such as mother and father, Mr. and Mrs., ladies and gentlemen, and boys and girls.”
Instead, some expressed they would prefer more general titles and names like parents/guardians, they/them and etc.
Joel Peterson, a Bearcat parent and former board trustee, said, “In the spirit of what you were trying to do, I can see this trying to be reasonable. I think it came out vague and slightly confusing more than anything. I am against this resolution. Though unintentional, it appears to be a preemptive strike against those who don’t use traditional names or pronouns. As we try to make a compromise here, I think we’ve unfortunately done the opposite of that.”
During a discussion among trustees, Nathan Williams explained why he opposed the resolution.
He said, “The resolution as proposed is exclusive. For me, right off the bat sets a tone. There is no current mandate. If we were dealing with a mandate, I would support something that was inclusive.”
For Trustee Chris Bausch, he saw the resolution not against any group or identity but just against a mandate that would compel people to only use or comply with using specific terms.
Bausch further explained, “I don’t see where it excludes the use of guardian or legal guardian, and maybe someone can sit down and explain to me tomorrow why we think this is against pronouns. This is against a mandate.”
Ultimately, the resolution passed. PRJUSD streams every school board meeting on YouTube and are available to rewatch immediately following the meeting.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Sep. 13 at 6 p.m.