Written by Ally Hoogs, Kate Rider
Graphic by Susan Rahimi
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.”