A group of citizens who attended last week’s board meeting of the Siskiyou Union High School District wanted to know how each trustee feels about AB 1266, a California law meant to ensure equal rights for transgendered students.
A group of citizens who attended the Feb. 12 board meeting of the Siskiyou Union High School District wanted to know how each trustee feels about AB 1266, a California law meant to ensure equal rights for transgendered students. Concerned parents and citizens have requested that the board write a letter to legislators urging them to repeal AB 1266, dubbed by some the “Co-Ed Bathroom Bill” because it endeavors to provide equal access for transgendered students to school facilities and programs. AB 1266 Several people spoke about their concerns regarding AB 1266 and transgendered students having access to locker rooms and bathroom facilities during public comment, including Bill Hofer, Steve Hart, Irma Vorbeck, Louise Gliatto, Jeff Deutcher, Steve Redford, George Webb, Maxine Lopey and Tim Webber. Hofer asked each individual trustee where they stand on AB 1266, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last year, and the referendum to repeal it. “The public has the right to know,” Hofer said, reminding board members Margaret DeBortoli, Lori Harch and John Hines that their seats are up for election this November. He told trustees Gregg Gunkel, Jay Clark, Sue Tavalero and Jana Blevins that California law provides for recall of elected officials. When asked her stance, DeBortoli said her job is to protect the rights of every student in the district. Harch had no comment. Hines said the school board cannot write a letter to legislators every time they disagree with a new law and called the questioning of board members “a bullying tactic.” Gunkel said as a member of the school board, it is his duty to uphold California law. “I trust in the referendum process,” he added. Clark said he has personal feelings on the topic and said he’d be happy to speak with people one-on-one. However, as an elected official, he agreed with Gunkel and said he must support state law. When asked if she agrees with the referendum to repeal AB 1266, Blevins indicated that she does. “I know I am a daughter of my Father in Heaven... who loves every child on earth,” said Tavalero. “He did not put me down here to judge” what parents and their children decide for themselves, though she said she would consider writing a letter to the legislature as an individual. Tavalero asked the group if they are also presenting their concerns in front of other school boards across Siskiyou County. Some said they’re concerned only with SUHSD because that’s where their children attend school. Lopey said there is work being done across the county and the state to repeal the law. She pointed out that the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in October supporting “all efforts to nullify AB 1266, including a referendum to repeal it.” Matheson explained he recently attended an Association of California School Administrators symposium and learned more about the implementation of policies to ensure compliance with the new law. He told the board that students who might choose to take advantage of its benefits are those who have made a gender transition over a long period of time. “It’s not a day-to-day decision,” Matheson said of transgender students who would fall under the new policy. “They consistently, in all aspects of life, state that they are a gender other than what’s on their birth certificate... they have to stick with that.” Matheson said the district hopes to have new policies in place for transgendered students by the end of the school year. Members of the public, including Dan Frink, Webber and Chris Hart also aired concerns about the implementation of Common Core and state required data gathering. McCloud High’s future Superintendent Mike Matheson said there is still no definitive answer regarding McCloud’s future funding. New clarifications in the Local Control Funding Formula, however, suggest there may be a “funding floor” so the risk to keeping the school open next year is about $25,000, rather than $350,000, as was originally projected. This year, McCloud is being kept open under the “hold harmless” clause of the LCFF at last year’s funding level. However, next year, it is unclear if the school will qualify as a Necessary Small School, since it has less than 100 students and is within a certain distance from Mount Shasta High. The power to declare a school as necessary used to lie with the county superintendent. However, language in the LCFF transfers that power to the state. Matheson said legislators are now considering changing the criteria for being a NSS as being further than 50 miles away from a larger school. If this happens, it would knock several Siskiyou County elementary and high schools out of NSS status, Matheson said. Then districts would have to decide at what level they can afford to continue a school’s operations using only the $10,000 per student offered by the state. DeBortoli lamented the state’s lack of clarity on the issue after more than a year of discussion, a sentiment echoed by many board members. The district plans to “proceed cautiously” while preparing a budget for next year, Matheson said. Blevins asked at what point will a combined “south county high school” be considered. Gunkel said he doesn’t believe it’s something to think about at this time and pointed out that only schools with less than 100 students fall under the threshold and are considered at risk of losing NSS status. Next meeting The SUHSD board will meet next March 12 at Happy Camp High School, with open session beginning at 4 p.m.