News

SRVUSD board discusses hate crimes, support staff, Dougherty Valley temporary school

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District's Board of Education convened for its first meeting of the year Tuesday, resolving to combat issues that had built up over the course of 2010.

The board discussed various aspects of school infrastructure, including recommendations for new positions and the future of students in the Dougherty Valley. But while the meeting ended on a hopeful, proactive note, it started off with a very somber speech from a district employee.

Rancho Romeo Elementary PE teacher BJ Byrd addressed the board, pleading for action after being the victim of a hate crime last Monday. A student scrawled an offensive, explicative-riddled message on her equipment locker that referenced both her name and sexual orientation which was meant to "hurt and question who I am and what I stand for."

"This has changed the fabric of who I am," Byrd said, occasionally sobbing. Byrd's chief complaint was that no one from the district contacted her about the incident until Friday, despite having filed a report with the Sheriff. Byrd said she felt like her colleagues didn't know how to handle the situation.

"As a district, I'm disappointed," she said. "To think that who I'm employed by wasn't willing to stand up and rally around me is a shame."

As Byrd encouraged the board to train and educate staff on how to handle hate crimes as "a frontline of defense," Assistant Superintendent Jessica Romero said school principals will undergo training this Thursday as part of the district's new http://www.danvilleweekly.com/news/show_story.php?id=4780 anti-bullying policy. Parents and teachers will also receive a notice about the training that afternoon.

"What you allow, you encourage," Byrd said. "If my teachers…don't know how to respond to me, how will they know how to respond to a student?"

After board Vice-President Greg Marvel assured Byrd that if the culprits were found there would be "serious consequences" and applause, support staffing reorganization was considered.

Superintendent Steven Enoch described four positions -- Technical Support Supervisor, Child Nutrition Director, District Financial Controller and Lead Groundskeeper – which the board might fill to help aid the 30,000-plus students the district expects to hold in the 2011-2012 school year.

But after a detailed description of each, Enoch said he only recommended that the board fill the Child Nutrition position, as the Food Service Fund (FSF) would be able to cover most of the increase in cost. The current structure has the Director of Custodial Services in charge of food services, with five percent of his salary coming from the FSF.

"Until we know what happens in (the June special) election, I can't in good standing recommend that you fill these positions," he said.

While the board concurred, several said the inability to fill the support positions was disheartening.

"The state continues to disappoint me, but we're forgoing things that will eventually cost us money," Councilmember Denise Jennison said.

Assistant Superintendent Christine Williams gave a presentation on growth challenges in Doughtery Valley schools, five of which are over capacity. The four elementaries were built to house 900 students, Williams said the schools can expect at least 5,000 students once Dougherty Valley is built out.

"The problem expands as the students matriculate," Williams said. "Even though we aren't experiencing the immediate concern at the high schools, it will happen soon at that level."

After batting around ideas to solve the immediate elementary overcrowding problem (including diverting students to other schools, increasing class sizes and building additional elementary facilities), Superintendent Enoch said he had been speaking with Shappell Homes and the City of San Ramon (which owns the land in question) about building a multipurpose facility that could be used as an auxiliary school.

Shappell is under obligation to build a community center and had initially planned to build one near the community college, Enoch said. They now have "serious interest in pursuing" a temporary school in a planned future park area along Monarch Road near Quail Run Elementary. The school would have 10-20 classrooms and house 260 to 500 students, depending on grade level and class sizes.

While talks are preliminary, an agreement with Shappell should look similar to other city/district joint use agreements and would include the multipurpose facility, stub utilities and placement of re-locatable classrooms.

"This would be a gift from the heavens," Councilmember Rachel Hurd told Enoch. "Please do pursue it."

The board will discuss plans further at their next meeting on Jan. 25. The Danville Express will follow this story with a more in-depth article on Dougherty Valley schools later this week.

Comments

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Jan 12, 2011 at 8:32 am

'"What you allow, you encourage," Byrd said. "If my teachers…don't know how to respond to me, how will they know how to respond to a student?"'

Amen. I believe that appropriately decisive responses need to be learned, and practiced, -- by students, teachers and staff alike, until they're practically second-nature. Hang-in there, Ms. Byrd -- the budding bigot needs to know It.Won't.Work.

"After board Vice-President Greg Marvel assured Byrd that if the culprits were found there would be "serious consequences" and applause, support staffing reorganization was considered."

"...and applause?" Is there an editor in the house? Oh. :-)


Posted by Duffy, a resident of Danville
on Jan 12, 2011 at 8:45 am

If I remember correctly, the 2000-2001 Grand Jury told the SRVUSD that their estimates of children per household in Dougherty Valley were way too low! But then what did they know?


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Jan 12, 2011 at 9:49 am

Ms. Byrd,

Is it a bit hyperbolic to say, "This has changed the fabric of who I am,"? Uh…fabric? What does that mean, exactly?

Sorry you got harassed. Hopefully the culprit is apprehended.

You say you're "disappointed" and it is a "shame" that SRVSD, "wasn't willing to stand up and rally around me." What did you want the district to do? Did you want a special meeting with the faculty and student body? A news conference? What kind of "rally" did you have in mind?

The vast majority of people are likely appalled this happened to you and support you. Hang in there.


Posted by Freckles, a resident of Danville
on Jan 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Wow spcwt, Wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Obviously this person was seriously hurt and disappointed that her administrators did not act in accordance to the harassment policy that she /he has been upholding. It is easy to right rules and regs, but when they have to be acted on the true colors of the district comes out. I hope this teacher finds support in her community.


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Jan 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm

The District responded on Friday rather than Monday. Does that mean the District doesn't support her against this terrible act of bullying and vandalism?

SRVSD officials are high caliber professionals. Sometimes response times may not be as fast as we'd like. Isn't that the case with any of us? But why shouldn't we trust that the District is very concerned about this incident and will get to the bottom of this?


Posted by beckyjean, a resident of Danville
on Jan 14, 2011 at 8:01 am

I am sorry that this happened to a teacher. However, I guess I find it a bit hypocritical when it is listed as such a problem for her and yet students are expected to daily deal with more extreme situations. Case in point..two years ago I was at a local middle school waiting to pick up my child. I heard a bunch of boys yelling homosexual slurs at a young boy leaving the office of the school. I went over to see what is going on as the child in question (sixth grade) was running away as fast as he could. I spoke to the harassers and then went into the school office to report the issue, the vp went out to talk to the students, the principal looked up but did not question what was occurring. The kids/harassers were in school the next day, if they were punished at all beyond a "hey don't do that" it was not apparent.

Why should an adult expect better protection then a child? Perhaps the real situation would be to address the bullying where it has the most impact?


Posted by jrm, a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Jan 14, 2011 at 9:26 am

jrm is a registered user.

To me this is no different than a swastika tag with anti semitic epithets or a racial slur written and dropped into a student's locker....these are examples of cowardly bullying by individuals hoping to inflict hurt and not get caught doing so. I hope the limited access to the sports locker can be tracked to help determine who was behind this act. I hope Ms Byrd knows the vast majority of our community finds these actions to be reprehensible and should be fully investigated.


Posted by American, a resident of Danville
on Jan 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

I agree with JRM, there must be zero tolerance of this type of behavior, and I would hope the administration would make every effort to investigate and hopefully catch those responsible...Howeer, this issue also leads to another problem facing our District, regarding the teacher's union and others demands that more administrators lose their jobs due to budget shortfalls, rather than the teachers union agreeing to cutbacks of benefits. Unfortunately, the teachers union can not have it both ways: Cut administrators, but yet expect to have enough administrators to immediately respond to these type of problems facing teachers and students. In the ideal world, we would have no budget problems, and no need to have so many administrators. However, the world we live in now does have huge budget problems, hate crimes and bullying that requires administrators to deal with the problems...In fact, it is only going to get worse if the town allows all those new homes to be built around Magee Ranch, as the schools will get more crowded, causing the need for even more administrators.


Posted by Jessica Lipsky, a resident of Danville
on Jan 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm

It should be interesting to see how the community responds to the principal training yesterday.

I'm waiting to hear back from Asst. Superintendent Jessica Romeo, but did anyone receive a newsletter about it?

Jessica Lipsky
Editor


Posted by Robert, a resident of Greenbrook Elementary School
on Jan 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Beckyjean, it seemed to me that Ms. Byrd was making the point that if she had to endure these behaviors with a lack of timely institutional support, that the students would fare no better. I could be wrong, but I thought that her point was that she wanted to ensure students would receive more support.


Posted by Difference Maker?, a resident of Montair Elementary School
on Jan 17, 2011 at 9:41 am

I don't understand what the difference is between a student calling a female teacher a "B" or a male teacher any derogatory term and this incident of writing about her sexual orientation. How does the district react when students write nasty things about teachers on bathroom walls? Don't they just paint over it? Seriously, Ms Byrd needs to quit this divisiveness. Why is what happened to her any worse than what happens to any other teacher? I thought gays want equal treatment. Isn't that what the Board has done?


Posted by AParent, a resident of Danville
on Jan 18, 2011 at 9:26 am

To Difference Maker:

The words "referenced both her name and sexual orientation which was meant to "hurt and question who I am and what I stand for."

My understanding from the quote is that the words used weren't only a 'swear word' but in addition a derogatory term aimed at her sexual orientation. If you can't figure out what the word used was, I can't help you. Using a derogatory term aimed at someone's sexual orientation or ethnicity is reprehensible. If anyone used a derogatory term for ANY teacher's ethnic background and/or sexual orientation they should be dealt with swiftly and their peers and superiors should support them in a timely fashion, not waiting a week. The incident happened on a Monday and she didn't hear from the district until Friday. Her complaint was:

"Byrd's chief complaint was that no one from the district contacted her about the incident until Friday, despite having filed a report with the Sheriff. Byrd said she felt like her colleagues didn't know how to handle the situation".

This could only be considered equal treatment if her peers had similar incidents and weren't dealt with in a timely manner. So if this hasn't been the case, she has every right to bring this to the Board's attention.

If your child faced a bullying incident at Montair, would you be happy to wait a full week until the issue was dealt with? I doubt it.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Jan 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm

DiffMaker,

1 -- are all epithets created equal in your estimation? For instance, I believe there's a real difference between complaining about what someone "did," (he failed me on that quiz, the so-n-so!), and what they "are" (female, Asian, old, gay, disabled, etc.). It seems to me that the latter -- so-called "status offenses," are generally much more "offensive" and bigoted. Your mileage may vary, but I doubt it.

2 -- I don't believe that "gays want[ing] equal treatment" has much to do with wanting equally Poor treatment. I don't think the District would want to defend its delayed action based on the claim "It's okay -- we're unresponsive to EVerybody."


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