PUSD Board Prohibits Travel to ‘Discriminatory States’

District-funded travel will be prohibited to the following states: Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. – Courtesy photo

District updates mental health, athletic competition policies

By Gus Herrera

The Pasadena Unified School District’s (PUSD) Board of Education recently held their final regular meeting before the new school year, which begins on Aug. 14.

In a symbolic move of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, the board voted to ban district-funded travel to the following states, deemed to have “discriminatory” laws: Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

According to staff’s report, the resolution, which was approved by a count of 5-2 (Board Member Elizabeth Pomeroy and President Roy Boulghourjian in opposition) prohibits travel to any state, that after June 26, 2015, has “enacted a law that … has the effect of voiding … state or local protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expressions … ”

Additionally, states that discriminate against “same-sex couples” or have passed laws that create any exceptions to “antidiscrimination laws in order to permit discrimination” are also included in the ban.

Originally, the resolution only applied to “certificated staff,” but Board Member Michelle Richardson Bailey amended the act to include all district staff.

Board Members Scott Phelps and Patrick Cahalan, both staunch supporters of the resolution, explained that the although the act may not have a significant fiscal impact, the true effect will be a symbolic one.

“This wouldn’t have a dramatic fiscal impact … but I’d be happy to go to other districts and say, ‘why don’t you do this, it’s something we passed,’” said Phelps, “there is history of success … when people do something like this.”

Cahalan agreed that the resolution might not be an “Earth-shattering contribution to the Civil Rights movement,” but he supported the act nonetheless.

“Every rock on the right side of the scale matters … I’m happy to second this and I support this idea … I’m kind of jealous I didn’t think of this myself,” he said.

Board Member Lawrence Torres also agreed with the spirit of the resolution, “the LGBTQ community that are in our care … [are] a very fragile population and they need to know that we’re a community … all of us, and we stand together.”

On the other side of the coin stood Boulghourjian and Pomeroy, who both voted against the resolution.

“This is one of the very rare instances where I don’t agree with Mr. Phelps,” said Boulghourjian, who had reservations about the resolution’s wording. He argued that having words such as “non-discrimination, freedom, fairness, and equality” in a prohibitive resolution might be counterintuitive and potentially produce the opposite desired effect.

“We don’t have to … stoop down to what our opponents are doing and do something negative … I don’t know where the benefit to the kids [is], it might even harm the kids’ education someplace,” said Boulghourjian.

Similarly, Pomeroy opposed the resolution, but she argued that the ban might negatively impact senior district staff who frequent annual educational conferences in Texas. She also felt that the board should focus its efforts on supporting equal access and respect here at home, “rather than saying to a distant state that we wish they would change their laws.”

In other news, the board voted unanimously to eliminate three classified positions due to declining enrollment in the district’s early childhood department.

Additionally, the district updated school policies regarding mental health and athletic competition.

The new mental health policy was developed to increase understanding and awareness of various psychological issues and their early warning signs. The policy will be supported by a two-tiered response system, with each school site establishing a crisis management team, to be aided by a district-wide team.

The athletic competition policy was updated to reflect new state law, which requires parents, students, and coaches to be educated on the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest. As part of the policy, any athlete who passes out or faints must be immediately removed until proper medical clearance has been given.

The policy also updates prohibition against the use of racially derogatory or discriminatory athletic team names, mascots, and nicknames.

August 10, 2017

About Author

Gus Gus Herrera was born in Los Angeles and raised in Pasadena. He attended Flintridge Prep in La Canada for high school and then spent four years on the East Coast at Boston University where he graduated with a bachelor's in philosophy. He first began covering the City of Pasadena for the Pasadena Independent in February 2016.

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