Opposing opinions expressed during public comment at latest meeting

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District met for its first board meeting since the schools were let out for summer earlier in June.

The board received various requests from a member of the public, Allen Stevo, for action items to be placed on the board agenda regarding LGBTQ, anti-nepotism, the COVID-19 vaccine, public records requests, and agenda transparency. 

In public comment at the start of the meeting, members of the public spoke to diversity in Paso Robles.

Paso Robles resident Camille Katz accused the PRJUSD of sweeping racist and homophobic instances under the rug to later be brought up in board by Superintendent Curt Dubost. 

“You are trying to play middle ground between hate and letting people be who they are,” Katz said.

Katz said she participated in planning a Pride event in Paso Robles City Park last Friday where a drag queen read to children. 

“It was great, it was wholesome, it was beautiful … the point is our community is diverse,” Katz said.

She added the students are becoming more progressive and less conservative, making them more open-minded and accepting.

Another resident of Paso Robles and PRJUSD parent Randall Jordan spoke, disagreeing with Katz’s comments.

Jordan cited Regulation 5145.3 Nondiscrimination and Harassment Policy which had its first reading on Nov. 10, 2020. The second page of the policy states the district will be a safe environment for all students, including transgender and gender non-conforming students, and all of their specific rights.

“They should have the same rights that my kids had when they went here,” said Jordan. “They should have the same rights that my grandkids, who also go to the school, should have but no more and no less.”

Jordan felt the policy is an opening for special treatment to specific students. 

Peter Burn spoke after Jordan, saying he did not plan to speak until he heard Katz’s comments because he disagreed with her comments relating conservatives to people who promote hate.

“Certain people are trying to create division amongst everyone else in this country,” said Burn, who asked the school to address the division.

Board President Chris Arend presented the information item stating the board will be reviewing several policies with lawyers. 

Trustee Frank Triggs asked for a link to the LGBTQ training PowerPoint to review prior to the meeting. He said he was disturbed by some of the things he saw during the training, saying some of the aspects of the training go against freedom of speech.

Triggs added that some of the items in training have “already been ruled unconstitutional, and that is you cannot force someone to call a ‘he’ a ‘she’ because they are under the delusion that they are. That makes my position very clear.”

Dubost announced that on Aug. 9, staff will be making a formal presentation to the board with information on what is mandated and anything that is not mandated but recommended for policy.

However, Trustee Chris Bausch stated that the training has already begun within the district. Bausch requested Dubost have the staff bring the report to the board sooner.

Trustee Nathan Williams brought up that he and the other trustees did not receive information on this item until right before the meeting and have not had time to review it to provide direction to staff.

Trustee Lance Gannon asked Dubost to clarify whether training was already taking place within the district. Deputy Superintendent Erin Haley clarified there was informational training given at the Paso Robles High School surrounding compliance with the intent to provide training by staff at the start of the new school year.

The training being referenced was updates on access to restrooms, kindness and inclusion unity training, and an LGBTQ counseling support group and are task force items that have been established through the advisory committee and shared with the staff to say these are resources available to the students.

Dubost said the training that was happening in the district was stopped when concerns arose, concerns from who was unclear.

 “We are in no way, shape, or form intending to encourage any misdeed toward any student of any kind…we want to protect each of our children,” Dubost said. “We love them all equally. We just want to be wide open, fair, and transparent in what we do and stick to the direction that you [the Board] have given us.”

Paso Robles Press has reached out to PRJUSD for further comment and clarification but has not received a response yet.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for July 12 at 6 p.m.