School board rushes to join the crowd with 'safe haven' resolution | March 10, 2017 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - March 10, 2017

School board rushes to join the crowd with 'safe haven' resolution

by Kathleen Ruegsegger

Our school board recently passed a resolution declaring the Pleasanton Unified School District a "safe haven" district.

Insisting the resolution protects students, it necessitated inclusion of its limitations under federal and state laws and required compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy. PUSD suggests the solution to accessing records or students is "prior written approval from the Superintendent," excepting "exigent circumstances" permitting ICE access to campuses.

Although the resolution included political commentary about the presidential election causing "fear, hopelessness, sadness, and concerns for student safety," there was no direction to staff for policy change or for new curative actions.

The resolution then conflates the passage of November 2016 school-related propositions as support for declaring a safe-haven district. Remarkably, these statements were accompanied by a recital declaring the district is "nonpartisan on politics."

The document ostensibly speaks to our comm*unity*, but then lists spoken languages and ethnicities in numbers -- fine for state reporting, but in this context the numbers only draw lines between us.

After all, this isn't about groups of 4,952 or 8,263 or 1,044 or 1,466. We are talking about 14,703 children, and notably not mentioning any child who isn't part of the district attending preschools and private schools.

In justifying this action, staff named Palo Alto as one of many districts passing resolutions like Pleasanton's. However, Palo Alto's resolution was different; it spoke to all children in the U.S. being entitled to a public education, authorized current policies be amended to reflect the resolution, directed staff actions, and avoided creating additional fear and hopelessness.

To further justify adoption of the resolution, staff cited letters from the county superintendent -- remarking 12 of 18 districts in Alameda County had passed similar resolutions -- and read other correspondence from the state superintendent and a variety of organizations.

Absent setting policy, making recommendations for real action or possibly reviewing alternative statements, our board instead chose to bow to peer pressure.

PUSD has staff, board members, attorneys and parents capable of writing something more original and reflective of our community values and could have provided genuine reassurances to students and their families, like crisis response teams. In a rush to join the crowd, however, this resolution managed to both fall short of and step beyond expected board governance.

* Editor's note: Kathleen Ruegsegger has nearly 20 years experience in education as a Pleasanton school board member (1990-93) and as an employee in the Pleasanton and Palo Alto school districts. Ruegsegger also served on a variety of committees while her three children, and a current grandchild, attended Pleasanton schools.

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