On June 2nd, 2019, 23-year-old black man Miles Hall was shot and killed by the Walnut Creek Police Department after they were called to de-escalate his mental health episode. Exactly one year later, his name, along with George Floyd’s, Breonna Taylor’s, and countless others’, echoed through the throng of protestors in Downtown Walnut Creek. As war zones metastasized overnight across America, police streaked the skies of our suburb with tear gas, aiming to extinguish the chants. Instead, protests continue to this day. While the media coverage and weapons of war have vanished, citizens still take to the streets demanding Justice for Miles Hall. Their second demand, which didn’t enter the political discourse until Floyd’s murder, is to defund the police.
Because of its recency and rigid simplicity, the term “defund the police” can seem scary, conjuring fear of a society helpless to stop robberies or murders, but the key to understanding it is to view such crimes as a symptom of an oppressive society, rather than a series of isolated incidents.
In June, Minneapolis became one of the first cities to take action, pledging to dismantle the MPD. A city with an 18.6% African-American population, their police department accounted for 35.8% of their budget in 2017. According to the FBI, a Minneapolis resident has a 1 in 124 chance of being a violent crime victim. In Walnut Creek, which allocates about the same percentage of their budget to law enforcement, the chances are 1 in 618, yet Walnut Creek had SWAT vehicles, tear gas, and sponge-tipped bullets at the ready to respond to looting, which WCPD Police Captain Jay Hill said he’d never seen before in his 23 years on the force.
“If we’re talking about spending on military-style equipment, a deeply troubling trend in law enforcement, then yeah, I’d speculate that [the large police budget] probably does encourage the…mentality that more likely would lead to use of those tools,” says Daniel Speir, a History teacher at Las Lomas. These abuses of power are inherent to the power, and that power is solidified by blatant unaccountability. Like dozens of other officers guilty of murder, Miles Hall’s killers, Melissa Murphy and KC Hsiao, are still on active duty. Not only would defunding the police diminish this power, but it would redirect to institutions which rehabilitate and not punish. Though he does not support “significant defunding to WCPD”, Speir also believes that “a serious review of what jobs we expect the police to do should be made. Following this review, shifting certain duties, like maybe responding to domestic disputes, to different agencies that specialize in conflict de-escalation (and don’t carry guns) would be a good idea. Money to fund those agencies could come partly from the police budget.” According to the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 10% of the police’s relations with the public involve people with mental illness. The shooting of Miles Hall was part of that 10%, and if there were an agency trained in de-escalation instead of brandishing guns, he might still be alive.
Those calling to defund the police do not want anarchy or revenge, but compassion. If law enforcement can rehabilitate rather than punish, we can build a safer, more just society. Defunding the police would not turn the community upside down, but right side up.
Between the calls for social justice in education, trending twitter topics on police brutality, and protests in all 50 states, America is reaching yet another turning point in history regarding the systematic rights, or lack thereof, of Black individuals in the US. The murder of George Floyd has shed light on many unknown Black police brutality victims, Miles’ story being one of those.
Since the murder of George Floyd, multiple protests have been held in Walnut Creek calling for justice for the numerous Black men and women murdered by police departments all over the country, including Walnut Creek, considering the shooting of Miles Hall on June 2, 2019, a 23-year-old Black man living in Walnut Creek.
He was shot by the Walnut Creek Police Department during a mental health crisis, although the Hall family spent two years prior to Mile’s death working with the WCPD to protect and support Miles through his mental health episodes. The Halls were deliberate in their protection of Miles to be sure the WCPD knew Miles and knew of his episodes. Despite their proactive efforts, Miles was shot and killed after police officers Melissa Murphy and KC Hsiao were called to help Miles, who was experiencing an episode. Miles was described as a “curious and funny young man” on the Instagram account @justiceformileshall. He was a Las Lomas alumni and enjoyed making music and skating.
June 2 marked the anniversary of Mile’s death, and a year later, the Halls are still doing everything they can to get justice for Miles and protect other Black men and women struggling with mental health problems like Miles. Taun Hall, Mile’s mother, commented on how support has changed since BLM has hit Walnut Creek, “Since the death of George Floyd, Justice for Miles Hall has seen more donations and more activity on social media.” Taun believes that since the death of George Floyd, there has been a substantial shift of support, politically and socially, that has helped Justice for Miles Hall in more ways than one. The foundation Friends of Scott and Taun Hall (FOSATH) was formed closely following Miles’ death to “educate and advocate for systemic changes in Walnut Creek with respect to law enforcement’s response to individuals living with mental health challenges.”
One of FOSATH’s main goals is to create a county-wide non-police response to mental health crises. FOSATH has also seen local, political change with the increase of attention to Miles’ case. There are currently multiple candidates for Walnut Creek City Council, who have made Miles’ story a major factor in their political campaign. Michael Sampson commented, “ I strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement and Justice for Miles Hall.” Loella Haskew commented, “It has been stated by Taun and Scott Hall that one of their goals is to have a more measured response to mental health crisis situations and I want to support them in this goal.” Curtis Reese has also mentioned full support of Justice for Miles Hall (for more information on what Walnut Creek City Council candidates will be doing for Justice for Miles Hall, the Page has released an article on all candidates and their positions). Both candidates mentioned above are pushing for a 24/7 non-police crisis hotline in Walnut Creek to assist with anyone in a mental crisis. Along with incoming candidates, Taun Hall has also seen more concern from the city council, “Before, they [city council] were just entertaining us and nothing was really happening. After George Floyd the council felt more of a need to address the concerns about racial inequality.”
There has been a large amount of community support for FOSATH’s goal of keeping officers involved in the shooting of Miles Hall off the street. Despite this support, Melissa Murphy and KC Hsiao remain on active duty in Walnut Creek (Hsiao and Murphy have not made any comment regarding the Hall case). However, as we have seen support for BLM and social justice increase in Walnut Creek, how has that affected Justice for Miles Hall/FOSATH? Taun goes on to mention that BLM creates leverage in Walnut Creek that Justice for Miles Hall can use to tie protests and local activism into Miles’ story. Many are learning about Miles’ through social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram. These social media accounts are slowly helping to spread Miles’ name all over the US in various protests.
Most recently, the Hall’s settled their Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the city of Walnut Creek for $4 million dollars. Despite one fight ending, this does not mean the Hall’s will stop pushing justice for Miles, “Our decision to settle was based on attempting to move forward and to avoid a prolonged legal battle that would’ve taken a further toll on us… the lawsuit was never about money. No amount of money can bring our son back”. In this email Justice for Miles Hall released after the lawsuit was settled, they also mentioned their main goal: “Our goal has always been, and will continue to be, for the city of Walnut Creek and its police department to recognize the fact that our son needed help… instead of getting help, he was viewed as a criminal”. The Hall’s will continue fighting to be sure that no other families experience a loss like this when making a call to police for help, as well as fighting for a 24/7 non-police response to mental health crises. To learn more about FOSATH and Justice for Miles Hall, visit justiceformileshall.org.
Lokii Reis speaking at the Las Lomas Reform Now rally on July 23rd, 2020
by Caroline Johnston
Graphic by Jane Wilson
On June 18, 2020, a currently active Instagram page titled laslomasreform surfaced. Their posts target alleged problems on the Las Lomas campus that have affected students, teachers, administration, and parents in the past months since its creation.
The Acalanes Union High School District completed a private investigation in response to the allegations on the Las Lomas Reform Instagram page. (To read about this report, please read our article on page 6.) Senior Dani Luna said, “I am somewhat supportive of Las Lomas Reform because some of the allegations turned out to be true,” in response to the investigation and its results. ASB President Campbell Zeigler said, “I’m glad that there was an investigation and that actions were taken to make LL a better place.”
The drama department has been directly affected due to the accounts’ calling for Taron Hensley’s resignation and then his subsequent indefinite leave. (Again, please refer to our article on page 6.) Senior drama student James Moore spoke about transitioning to a new teacher: “The transition will be difficult, but I truly believe it is necessary in order to make the drama community a more positive and comfortable place.” In response to this investigation, Las Lomas principal Tiffany Benson said in an email, “Please know that the safety and well being of our students is always the top priority.”
According to the account’s Instagram bio, Las Lomas Reform aims to bring change to Las Lomas High School and the Acalanes Union High School District by “organizing for the permanent institutional and cultural reform of AUHSD to protect BIPOC and marginalized identities from enduring trauma on campus.” The group uses an anonymous reporting system whereby students, alumni, or others can submit their allegations about mistreatment at Las Lomas, which are then posted on the Instagram page. None of these stories get verified and many of the allegations regard sexual assault, harassment, and racial discrimination; The Page contacted the owners of the account, and they worked on responses together instead of providing their names. They said they started the Instagram page because “we kept hearing the same types of alarming stories – about racism and sexual misconduct – from BIPOC students and students of marginalized identities. We knew that urgent action was needed to reform the system and culture of AUHSD.”
There are many pages like Las Lomas Reform, at schools such as Stanford University, Northgate High School, Alhambra High School, and Miramonte High School, all of which use an online platform to bring change to their schools.
With over 1,600 followers on Instagram, Las Lomas Reform seems to have a substantial amount of student support, but not so much teacher support. The Page contacted more than ten teachers for an interview and most responded, but declined to comment, some saying it was due to district limitations. According to teacher sources who wish to remain anonymous, the Acalanes Education Association (the teachers’ union) has “urged members not to make any statements without representation.” Also according to some responses, teachers are currently in fear of their jobs and reputations.
Las Lomas Reform said, “We have received support from the California Department of Education, the ACLU, and multiple attorneys. We are not advocating alone. We have built community, accountability, and safety with our audience.” The Page could not verify this. Some students think that the group created a community where people feel safe to share their experiences. Agreeing, an anonymous student, Student #1, said, “Las Lomas Reform is the most dependable wellness center. It’s therapeutic when having a traumatic thing happen to you to share that with students your age, and who experience similar stuff.”
Las Lomas Reform has not kept to Instagram. On June 23, 2020, the group held an open-mic rally in front of Las Lomas. Sophomore Justine Weingartner attended this rally and said, “It was really important for these students to speak up and be vulnerable in order to make these issues more known.” An anonymous student who attended the rally, Student #2, said, “I think it was very powerful to have that many students all sharing and it was very emotional to see how brave people were and to hear these terrible stories that didn’t get taken seriously before.”
Diablo Valley Solidarity, a local activist group that includes Black Lives Matter organizers and Las Lomas students, livestreamed the event through their Instagram account. Las Lomas Reform said, “The LLRN (Las Lomas Reform Now) rally put student endangerment in the public eye and pushed AUHSD to finally fulfill their legal duties.”
Not all Las Lomas students fully agree with Las Lomas Reform and how it is trying to accomplish its goals, though. Junior Shealyn Hyde said, “I did support [Las Lomas Reform] in the beginning when it was for the good of the students and was all about positivity; unfortunately now when I look at the page, all I see is hate.” One student, Student #3, said, “I admire how hard they work to find quotes and all other types of information, and how successful they are at it…On the other hand, I think that in almost every case, they fail to provide sufficient proof for their accusations and sufficient logic behind their conclusions,” and later went on to say that, “It seems like they just got carried away and are no longer trying to help in a positive way but instead trying to satisfy their own vendetta against what they’ve imagined the school district staff have done or want to do.”
An anonymous Las Lomas parent said, “I do not think that social media is the best environment to create effective change. However, we are in a complicated time in which students are using social media to reach others and get their voices heard.”
People sharing their stories of sexual assault is not just a local phenomenon, but a worldwide movement, commonly known as the #MeToo movement. A report published by Chicago Unbound said, “#MeToo had spawned the creation of new kinds of informal reporting channels…These channels amplify accusations of abuse by reaching wider communities and aiming for more ambitious ends.” Las Lomas Reform is one of these new informal reporting channels.
We are incredibly excited to be the new Editors-in-Chiefs of The Page. After a semester of training, we were thrust into the task of leading the staff during distanced learning. But despite the obvious limitations our publica- tion had with producing this issue from home, our staff has worked tireless- ly since the beginning of the school year to get this physical issue to you: our readers, our skeptics, and our community as a whole. As student jour- nalists, we publish during a time of mass protests, elections, and a global pandemic. We are a student run press. We will make mistakes, but we have done our best to write about current events in the hopes of informing our readership properly and without political nor racial bias. The student ed-code objective for The Page is as follows: “Ed Code 48907 affirms the right of high school newspapers to publish whatever they choose, so long as the content isn’t explicitly obscene, libelous, or slanderous, and doesn’t incite students to violate any laws or school regulations.” We strive to do better, be better, and inform better, but we cannot do this without you, our readership. Please submit feedback to us, the editors-in-chief, through our letter to the editor program and/or through gmail.
We look forward to your input,
Grace Gonsalves & Susan Rahimi Editors-in-Chief
A senior at Las Lomas High School, Grace Gonsalves has been on The Page Staff since her sophomore year when she started out as features editor, a position she enjoyed until taking over as Editor-in-Chief in the spring of 2020. She has loved growing her vision for this publication and bringing it to life, thanks to the ever-evolving journalism squad. Outside of Las Lomas, Grace is often out exploring, even in the time of COVID-19, camping, hiking, and seeking out as many new experiences as she can.
Susan Rahimi is a senior at Las Lomas. She began writing for The Page as a timid sophomore before she was asked to be an Editor-in Chief for her final year at Las Lomas. She is very grateful journalism has given her an opportunity to step out of hiding and lead with confidence. Beyond Las Lomas, you can find her watching inspirational TedTalks, browsing through Architectural Digest magazines, and reading Harry Potter…again.
This November 3, 3 of the 5 seats of Walnut Creek’s City Council are up for election. City Council elections are held every other year, but for 2020 in particular, the stakes are much higher. Eight candidates have been declared for this election, the highest the city has had in years. With a high number of candidates, and with the recent protests for BLM and Miles Hall, who was killed by Walnut Creek Police in 2019 during a mental health crisis, the candidates’ views and actions will matter a lot more to voters this November. The Page reached out to each candidate asking their stance on the local protests for Black Lives Matter and related topics. Reese and Talbert did not respond to answer our questions.
The five new candidates this year are Hailey Ayres, Cindy Darling, Kurtis Reese, Michael Samson and Lauren Talbert. Plus Justin Wedel, Kevin Wilk and Loella Haskew (current mayor) are running for reelection.
Hailey Ayres, a Las Lomas alum, studied sociology and government, as well as gotten involved in local leadership. Ayres said she wants to use what she’s learned and bridge the gap between theory and practice in order to work with cities and residents to support a sustainable Walnut Creek. “I think the term ‘defund the police’ gets a bad rap but it’s mostly just because people don’t really understand what that means…It’s the idea of reallocating funds from police departments to other non-police forms that continue to address public safety…I would love for us to find a creative way in Walnut Creek to help address public safety that doesn’t involve calling an officer with a gun to show up to help,” said Ayres. “I learned in my program that there is often a gap between those making policy, politicians, and those that implement policy, those who work for the city. I wanted to bridge that gap.”
Cindy Darling is a former Chair of the Walnut Creek Planning Commission. Now, as a candidate, she’s prioritizing the city’s economy as well as responses to mental health crises and homelessness. On the topic of BLM, Darling said, “Our country and our city are having a long overdue conversation on the role of race, policing and equity…Moving forward, we should look towards an expeditious and collaborative process that brings our community, including marginalized members, other interested parties, mental health professionals and law enforcement together to ensure our public safety system is equipped to properly respond to mental health incidents, to ensure our city works to keep everyone in our community safe and to foster the warm, inclusive community Walnut Creek deserves. I will advocate for an unarmed response to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, implicit bias training for our entire city staff and council, de-escalation training for our police department and improved recruitment of BIPOC for city leadership positions…Police serve a critical public-safety function in our community, and they need the training, resources, transparency, mental health support and, above all, accountability to keep all members of our society safe.”
Loella Haskew is running for reelection and has been mayor of Walnut Creek since December 2019. This December, the City Council will select a new mayor, typically a senior member. In this case, the new mayor, assuming he is reelected, would be Kevin Wilk, as he is Mayor Pro Tem. With her not only running for reelection, but also being the current mayor, voters can judge Haskew based on what she has already done on the City Council. “My ‘official’ goals are to rebuild and enhance our economy, explore and implement modern initiatives for public safety, revitalizing the arts, recreation and library program, preserving the quality of life while addressing local housing needs and ensuring our City’s strong financial future,” said Haskew. When asked about her views of the police’s response to the June 1st protest, when protesters were tear-gassed and shot at with rubber bullets by police here in Walnut Creek, Haskew changed the subject, instead mentioning when protesters were outside her home, saying “Or, how about the protest held outside my home at 10:00pm at night with a significant amount of vandalism that my husband and I had to pay for ourselves…I am angry that the ‘mob’ scared the heck out of my neighbors; that burning anything close to a home and an accelerant such as oil-based paint is so potentially dangerous that it could have burned down our home and as a result, burned down our neighborhood, and no one even cared to know anything about me or my husband or if we deserved to be singled out as a target.” She also said, “If this brings us closer to social justice and awareness that Black lives matter, it is a small price to pay.”
Kurtis Reese is a Las Lomas dad and has been friends of the Hall family since his time in college, having known Miles Hall for his whole life. “Miles suffered from schizophrenia and experienced a mental break last summer…Instead of Miles getting the help he needed, everything went horribly wrong that day and the police shot and killed him. I was distraught. Eventually, I realized I had to do something – to speak out about what happened to Miles, and to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That led me to speaking regularly at city council meetings and walking around city hall in search of leaders to engage to bring about much needed change. I knew Walnut Creek could, and must, do better,” said Reese. “We must ensure social justice through an equitable distribution of opportunities, application of laws and usage of systems and programs to everyone.” Reese has been endorsed by Michael Samson.
Michael Samson, a teacher at Cal High School, decided to run for election because he believes that the current City Council is lacking. “My involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, witnessing what WCPD did to peaceful protestors, including myself, my partner and my mom on June 1, and my disappointment when seeing how our City Council responded, including all three of the incumbents currently running for reelection, is what convinced me in the first place that I needed to run. I strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement and Justice for Miles Hall,” said Samson. “Justice for Miles Hall means two things; Implement a 24/7 mental health crisis non-police response, and take the officers responsible for Miles Hall’s death off of the street.”
Lauren Talbert worked at the Walnut Creek Library until she was laid off due to COVID-related budget cuts. After seeing the city’s dismissal of people’s concerns for the library, while the police budget is 26.7 million dollars, Talbert decided to run for City Council and has been endorsed by Michael Samson. “I thought I would give it a try at being somebody on City Council who actually cares and who also has worked for the city…I think it would’ve been meaningful to me to see representation in my local government…It would have been nice to see myself represented and feel more like I belong here and not like I need to adjust myself and my behaviour.” Talbert said. “I wouldn’t say necessarily that Walnut Creek is racist…But I don’t think it’s a place that is actively anti-racist either…I grew up in Walnut Creek. I grew up in a predominately white school. I grew up with some racist values, as a black person, that I had to unlearn.”
Justin Wedel is another one of the 3 candidates running for reelection. He had been mayor from 2017 to 2018. “As the one of the two Council members that has attended every BLM and Miles Hall protest, not the daily ones, I have a first-hand account of the stories told, the messaging, and the City’s response. I believe that everyone has the right to the first amendment and I will continue to ensure that protests can occur, that the appropriate precautions are made to ensure safety, and that the City responds in a fashion that respects the rights of all in our community,” said Wedel. When asked his position on defunding the police, Wedel said, “I stand directly alongside California Representative Karen Bass, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. She stated that defunding the police would be horrible for our communities, especially communities of color. Her position, my position, obviously does not mean that we need to evaluate our opportunities for improvement. That is why I have been a strong advocate and leader for a 24/7 non-police medical response, zero-based budgeting to ensure all tax dollars are going to appropriate functions and review of our policies, including the use of canines, tear gas, other non-lethal weapons and how and when we use SWAT vehicles.”
Kevin Wilk, another council member running for reelection, says he’s running for a second term because, as he believes, there is still more work to be done on important social issues. “As the only Democrat on the Council, I have ensured that important social issues along with democratic principles were addressed consistently and often,” said Wilk. When asked about how he plans to obtain justice for Miles Hall, Wilk stated “[I am] requiring a full report from the DA’s office so we can get a starting point, and requiring full transparency on this. The DA has been woefully late in this…I am working with the county to provide a 24/7 unarmed mental health crisis response for Walnut Creek and all our surrounding cities. Ideally, this would be for the entire county.”
With the incumbents, Haskew, Wedel, and Wilk, voters can base their decision on their actions in City Council and not just their words. Voters can see what Walnut Creek has been like recently and decide if we need to keep certain people in office, or if we need to elect new voices.
After Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd, the nation exploded into protest, with the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement forcing a reckoning between the police and race relations. One focal point of contention in the Black Lives Matter movement is that of School Resource Officers (SROs), or police officers specifically tasked with patrolling school campuses. Both the San Francisco Board of Education and the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education unanimously voted to remove school resource officers from campus, while the Antioch City Council and School District Board of Trustees’s decision to hire six school resource officers in narrow, racially-divided votes that sparked a wave of protest.
Controversy over school resource officers has not reached its full clamor in Walnut Creek nor at Las Lomas High School. AUHSD Boardmember Bob Hockett said that he “[believes] SROs can be a positive presence on campus as long as they are perceived by students and staff as a proactive position.” Hockett also said “that is not the perception on many campuses throughout the Bay Area…to my knowledge we have received little, if any, expressions of concern about the continuation of this position, [and] if we did, we would certainly reevaluate the need for an SRO and, if appropriate, ask the city to remove the officer.” Councilmember Wilk said that the SRO program at Las Lomas “[was] requested by the school board and administration due to a rash of school shootings nationwide over the past several years.”
There have been some public commentators at Las Lomas PTSA meetings that have specifically criticized the SRO program and called for its abolition, with these commentators saying that School Resource Officers “brushed off” statistics about police racial bias – such as African-Americans in Walnut Creek being thirteen times more likely to be arrested, relative to the general population – and connecting WCPD presence on campus to the WCPD’s killing of Las Lomas alumnus Miles Hall in 2019. Walnut Creek Police Department Chief Tom Chaplin identified the SRO program as a possible cut if the Walnut Creek City Council voted to reallocate 10% of the Police Department’s budget towards other city services, and in an interview with The Page for another article, Walnut Creek Councilmember Kevin Wilk said that he “[has] requested [the City Council] Public Education Committee to review the current need for SROs in the future, to see if any changes should be made, [a review that will happen] at the next Public Education Committee meeting (in the fall).”
Walnut Creek maintains its own School Resource Officer program in the form of Officer Nicole Rosenbusch, the School Resource Officer assigned to Las Lomas and WCI, and Officer Shane Blatz, the School Resource Officer assigned to Northgate and Foothill. Nancy Kendzierski, President of the Acalanes Union High School District Governing Board, described all police departments working with AUHSD as “very supportive, collaborative, and appropriate,” and said “all Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) campuses have good relations with their local police departments.” Kendzierski also said that “there is no district funding for an SRO at any of our schools,” with all money for SROs at Las Lomas coming from the Walnut Creek Police Department, which “prioritized and funded the position, partly due to the location of the school.”
In numerous Walnut Creek City Council meetings, Councilmembers have also discussed the School Resource Officer program with regards to police actions on January 9, when Officer Rosenbusch alongside several other officers of the Walnut Creek Police Department arrested a student who allegedly brought a handgun into campus. According to a CBS News report made shortly after the incident, “school officials immediately contacted Walnut Creek police about the tip shortly after 11 AM.” Furthermore, according to Police Lieutenant Tom Cashion in an interview with the Page for an article published shortly after January 9, the “first responder” was the SRO; the second officer also arrived very quickly after the call, with the two officers together arresting the alleged student. Cashion described the situation as “all hands on deck” after the student’s arrest, at which point the Police was enforcing a lockdown and “searching [for] lockers, [searching] for a car, [and] searching… the campus for a second perpetrator.”
Officers of the Walnut Creek Police Department did respond to requests for comment regarding the January 9 incident and SRO arrest statistics, but were unable to give comment prior to this article’s deadline.
The Acalanes Union High School District released an updated version of AUHSD’s bias reporting procedures and the new system to report them for the new school year in light of recent occurrences on the district’s campuses. The district describes the reasons to submit a bias report in the written procedures section as “documenting an act of racism, sexual harassment, homophobia, cyberbullying, micro-aggression, discrimination or hate speech.” Nancy Kendzierski, the president of the AUHSD Governing Board, said, “The bias reporting system has been introduced to give more voice to students, address bias, develop a multidisciplinary committee to receive bias reports, support students who experience bias, track frequency and hold people accountable for their words and actions.”
“I think the new bias reporting system allows us to identify and respond to the events, behaviors and incidences that we need to address,” Jazmin Hernandez, one of LL’s Associate Principals, said. “It also allows our students, staff and community members to report items anonymously, which lowers some of the anxiety associated with having to report some of these instances.”
Marlene Miranda, language and ethnic studies teacher at Las Lomas, commented: “I think it’s a good start for the Acalanes District Communities to begin to formally have a place for students, staff and parents to report biases.”
Students can submit a report through a Google survey linked on the school and district’s websites. The system then sends the survey to the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT), which then determines if it requires restorative or disciplinary action.
AUHSD usually uses restorative action in instances of micro-aggressions or insensitivity, which would result in apologies, counseling, and educational projects. AUHSD would use disciplinary action, on the other hand, in instances of sexual harassment, bullying and hate speech, which would meet the punishment in the school’s code of conduct. “The restorative [action part] is actually the brand new element,” Preston Nibley, the student member of the Governing Board, said. “That’s where there’s going to be less of an emphasis on actually punishing the perpetrator and more of an emphasis on helping the victim.” That emphasis will help students “be more willing” to use the system, Nibley added.
AUHSD included the reporting guidelines in the module about racial equity for the curriculum students were required to do the first week of school. Those rules labeled bias incidents as “any actions committed against a person or group that are motivated in whole or in part by bias against the person’s or group’s sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, race, religion, or disability.” District guidelines on the module titled Bias Reporting Procedures described incidents that warrant using the new system, including “Using the N-word, sexually harassing a female student, hate speech, bullying, [and] cyberbullying.”
Sophomore Ana Vázquez is one student who filed a bias report. “It was okay, nothing special,” she said. When a student fills out the report, the administration informs that they might contact parents if the student is non-anonymous. “It was kind of scary when [the District] said they would contact my parents, but I told my mom and she said ‘yeah, sure, go ahead.’ [It] was relieving because I didn’t want to do it anonymously, because then I wouldn’t receive a follow up [from administration] and I didn’t want that.”
The specificity of “female sexual harassment” excludes individuals who do not identify as female, including (but not limited to) nonbinary and male individuals. “[AUHSD] specifically has had a larger problem with male harassment of female students,” Nibley said. “I think [that] if the problem were the other way around, we would address that.” Although, others disagree. “It’s about being inclusive,” Nic Smetak, a parent leader, explained. “You have the trans community, you have non-binary people. If they use the pronouns they/them, then how are they going to feel going in and saying ‘oh, it only says female, and I don’t identify as that.’”
“I believe that our goal, not just as a school district, but as a society, is to continuously learn, grow and improve,” Hernandez said when asked if she believes that there should be anything else included in the reporting procedures. “As with any system, we’re going to need feedback from our students, staff and community to ensure that it is working and making an impact.”
For the past few months, millions of people all around the world have taken to the streets in protest for Black Lives Matter. However, just as many people have also taken to their Instagram feeds and Twitter timelines. Many people have been sharing videos of protests, reposting informational Instagram posts and more. Social media is also the very place where the video that helped spark the reemergence of this movement was posted. Sophomore Clara Jensen explained why social media has been so important during a time like this, “Since social media is so accessible and widespread, it allows me to speak and learn from other people as well as educate them…I’ve been able to access news and information about important issues in ways that make sense to me and give me the power to help.”
Current events in 2020 have made social media as a source of information more important than ever. In addition to keeping in touch with people in a time where meeting face-to-face isn’t always ideal, social media has proven to be a common place for receiving and sharing information. Junior Shealyn Hyde said, “With the aid of social media I think that the BLM movement has reached a lot more people and outlets that it wouldn’t have if no one had social media.” Senior Dina Mirmotalebisohi also said, “It has encouraged tough discussions and conversations that may not have been had before because students were afraid of judgement.”
Like many things, some argue that there are good and bad aspects of social media’s large role. “I think that it has done some damage to the purpose of the movement,” said Hyde. “Like lots of information in the media, things can get misconstrued and changed…The same goes for the BLM movement; people have changed the purpose of it to be more political or to fit their own needs, and I feel that the movement has lost momentum because of it.”
Jensen argued the former: “[Social media] gives you the ability to share resources to donate or sign petitions…ultimately the way I’ve been able to advocate the most during these times is through posting on social media about my views and being able to have meaningful conversations about the things I post with the people who follow me. I think that in the end, it has been a good thing.”
The conversation of social media regarding the Black Lives Matter movement also brings into question: should everyone utilize their platform, and in what situations is it acceptable or unacceptable for someone not to do so? Mirmotalebisohi pointed out, “I think the best way that I can respond to this question is that at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how many posts you make on social media. I promise you, no one is sitting in high power and saying, ‘Oh my god, look at all these teenagers posting the black squares. It’s time to focus on racial equity.’ No one’s doing that. So I think at the end of the day, it’s important to focus on action.”
For those who are new to PVRIS like myself, here are some things to know about them. PVRIS is a rock band from Lowell, Massachusetts. Lyndsey Gunnulfsen is the lead singer, lead by the guitarist Brian Macdonald, Alex Babinski as keyboard, Brad Griffin on drums, and Kyle Anthony as percussion.
On August 28, PVRIS released a new album called Use Me. The tone of the album is very low key and just gives you a happy vibe. My favorite song on the album is the first one which is called “Gimme a Minute.” This song just makes you feel like a badass and like you are living inside a music video.
Although they are classified as a rock band, this album sounds like more of a pop techno type of music. When you hear the band you would think more of Halsey rather than ACDC.
Although this album has a mostly upbeat tone, some of the lyrics are more somber. For example, “Hallucinations” has an upbeat tone, but if you listen to the words, Lyndsey is talking about how she’s heartbroken and hallucinating that her significant other is still with her.
Overall, I really enjoyed their new album and can’t wait for the next song to come out.
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on throughout the world, it seems like we will never go back to our normal lives. Many people have not been to movies, seen their families or been to restaurants since March of this year. When the lockdown first began in March, many restaurants had to close their doors until the virus was more under control. As of now, many restaurants are open for outdoor eating, but there are still some restrictions as indoor dining has still not been allowed by the county. However, the recent loosened restrictions have made it easier for the small businesses here in Walnut Creek.
When Las Lomas alumni Joe Stein, the owner of Sunrise Bistro, a downtown restaurant which has been in Walnut Creek since 1981, first got the news of the lockdown, he knew his business was at risk right away: “Catering is a big part of business and because of the lockdown we ended up having to lay off all of our catering staff.” With a significant portion of his business gone in an instant, Stein knew he had to think of something big. This is when Stein came up with an idea that could help feed doctors, nurses and other first responders as well as save his business: “Within a week of the shutdown we launched a GoFundMe page allowing crowdfunding to buy meals for hospital workers to help feed first responders. We were able to provide 5,000 meals for 15 different hospitals and we got to be able to keep 75% of our staff.” Stein has been able to raise 75,000 dollars and provide 5,000 meals through his GoFundMe page to help feed hospital workers, police officers and firefighters while saving his business at the same time. The loosened restrictions have let Sunrise get a boost in business but it is still not what it used to be. Stein said, “I think it’s a mixed bag. We opened the deck a month ago so we have outside seating now so that’s a bonus but during the fires and smoke COVID has taken a backseat sometimes.”
It is unlikely that indoor dining will return to restaurants until cases are down greatly but there are still many ways to get food from your favorite restaurants in Walnut Creek. Downtown restaurants are now offering outdoor eating but if you are not comfortable with that, there are still other ways to eat food from restaurants. Many restaurants take orders from DoorDash and Uber Eats so you can have the food delivered to your house with an additional delivery fee. Other options include curbside pickup which is essentially take-out but you do not have to enter the store. Instead, an employee will bring your order to your car. Some restaurants also let you walk in to order and have you wait outside as well.