News

School board approves anti-bias resolution

Renaming-schools debate sparks new effort

At the urging of parents, community members and several civil-rights groups, the Palo Alto school board unanimously approved Tuesday a resolution that seeks to address reports of racism and discrimination.

Recognizing "the danger of stereotype and bias — unconscious or otherwise — that has historically been employed to justify discriminatory treatment towards many groups in the United States," the resolution commits the school district to what will likely be a collaborative effort with other agencies and organizations to "proactively work to ensure the rights and privileges of everyone in its schools regardless of race, ancestry, religion, country of birth, immigration status, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity."

Board members revised some parts of a resolution originally proposed by a group of parents concerned about reports of discrimination toward Japanese-heritage students and families in the aftermath of a contentious debate over renaming a middle school after a Japanese-American alumnus who shared a last name with an unrelated Japanese admiral. The debate caused friction between members of Palo Alto's Japanese- and Chinese-American communities.

Though the resolution stemmed from this particular debate, board members said many groups face prejudice that has become so entrenched it is almost normalized in Palo Alto. Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza said the district receives near-daily complaints of discrimination from students of color and LGBTQ students. And just this weekend, posters criticizing books Palo Alto libraries were promoting for Pride Month were posted around the Mitchell Park Library.

"I think what happened in the renaming process was we uncovered something that has been going on for awhile that we didn't want to know about," said board member Melissa Baten Caswell. "There are many groups in this community who are regularly hurt and disrespected ... almost so much that it starts to become the norm and they don't say anything."

The board directed the district's new superintendent to work with relevant stakeholders and board members to determine next steps, whether that be the creation of a standing district committee devoted to these issues or a multiagency collaborative that can share the work and commit resources as necessary.

The renaming debate drew the attention of civil-rights organizations including local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Community Relations Council based in San Francisco, who all offered Tuesday night to help the district in its work moving forward.

Not all supported the resolution as it was originally proposed, including more than 200 community members who signed a letter written by parent Kathy Jordan, a school board candidate, that states "a process that sought to be sensitive and respectful to all now instead seems to have

become an exercise in reproach, rather than an exercise in inclusion."

On Tuesday, parents argued that the resolution would further fracture rather than heal a divided community. Several asked the board to adopt a more inclusive resolution that didn't solely focus on reports of discrimination against Japanese-American citizens. They also urged the board to focus their efforts on enforcing board policy, state and federal law that prohibits discrimination and bullying on the basis of race.

In other business at the last regular board meeting of the school year, the school board approved the district's 2018-19 budget; voted to place a new bond measure on the November 2018 ballot; voted to place on the same ballot a measure that proposes limiting board members to serving two terms; and approved a contract with a consultant that will oversee the district and city's master planning process for Cubberley Community Center.

The board postponed a discussion on a staff proposal to limit "overly broad" Public Records Act requests to a summer retreat that has yet to be scheduled.

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by What we Do, not what we Say
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2018 at 9:51 am

Speaking of hurt and disrespected, Melissa, how about a resolution to “proactively work to ensure the rights and privileges of everyone in its schools” including those who need 504s and other special needs? Including families who have experienced escalating retaliation because they had to complain since such proactivity doesn’t exist in our district and administrators prioritized their own sense of “embarrassment” above the rights of students? How about a resolution that staff have to be proactive to identify students who need the protection of the law and extend the necessary accommodations whether they are asked or not, and apprise parents of their rights?

Oh wait.

That’s right, there is already FEDERAL LAW providing for exactly that and DISTRICT PROCEDURES the district itself wrote for how it would comply with the law. The district policies are “legally binding”. What about creating a culture of doing the right thing all the way to the top, of supporting teachers to be the upstanders they themselves preach at children to be, of setting an example of doing the right thing all the way to the top (not just saying the right things), and of following existing policy in a substantial rather than superficial way? Then such empty (meaning, all words, not a legitimately beneficial outcome) gestures would be unnecessary.

On this issue, if you wanted to do something to make change without “fracturing the community” you might have avoided using a prominent volunteer with a long history of creating division in the community, being self-righteous and unable to understand anyone who disagrees with him and who tends to personally demonize anyone who disagrees with him. He can sound contrite but it’s not genuine and it never lasts and his interest in compromise and reaching out of his own self-righteousness is repeatedly shown to be disingenuous. You allowed someone with a history of stirring up discord to lead in a situation that need a consensus builder and seem surprised that we got further “fracturing”.

Lead by example, not by empty resolutions that seem meant to get a headline and have no history here of making a difference.


24 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:41 am

Great. Everything is fixed now. Can we please move on to education in reading, writing, arts, math and science?


22 people like this
Posted by Someone turned on the ceiling fan
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Failing school district with the highest school funding in the nation. Root causes: the incompetent school board and ultimately us, the voters, who should bear the blame. My fellow citizens, open your eyes this Nov!


19 people like this
Posted by but wait!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 20, 2018 at 3:17 pm

"proactively work to ensure the rights and privileges of everyone in its schools regardless of race, ancestry, religion, country of birth, immigration status, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity."

Well that's quite a laundry list, how about adding political views to the list, now that's something I would support in PC Palo Alto. LOL!!


11 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 20, 2018 at 8:25 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Great!

Given the language of the resolution all groups should be treated fairly and equally including white, male, christian, heterosexual, native citizens regardless of historical ancestry. Nobody is responsible for the "sins of their fathers" anymore (other than Frederic Terman of course)

Further, I guess this means that white privilege and toxic masculinity will no longer be acceptable labels and a sanctioned part of the district policy.

Now that we have that resolved, how about going after real discrimination like the kind recently uncovered at the college admissions departments of UC Berkeley and Harvard against Asian male applicants?


Like this comment
Posted by Reference
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2018 at 7:27 am

@Sancti : “the kind recently uncovered at the college admissions departments of UC Berkeley and Harvard against Asian male applicants?”

Reference please


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 21, 2018 at 10:16 am

The lawsuit against Harvard for anti Asian bias in admissions has been widely covered. Briefs were filed last week so there was lots of detailed coverage. Google "Harvard Asian bias" or anything similar.


1 person likes this
Posted by David
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 21, 2018 at 10:22 am

@Reference: You can't seem to paste in links here, so just Google "Harvard Asian Discrimination" and you'll find references. According to a recent lawsuit, Asian-American applicants had higher test scores but were regularly rated lower on subjective measures such as "positive personality".

I don't know of any similar practices at Cal, and I don't know what any of this has to do with discrimination in Palo Alto!


3 people like this
Posted by Reference
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2018 at 10:57 am

@Resident, @David,

I ask because the Bakke vs. UC Regents was addressed by the Supreme Court 40 Years ago.

Web Link

The ruling left use of race in admissions acceptable, but specific quotas are not. Do you have specific court references or data that distinguish the specifics of the Asian Male case that would further the discussion to understand if this was use of racial information or was actually a quota ? If the former, the courts have ruled that it is allowable and its use against whites, age, gender, etc. has been used since affirmative action (70 + years).

I haven't the time to look for unique supporting facts that demonstrate that the Asian Male admissions case was other than subjective use of racial information by the Universities during the admissions process in accordance with the Supreme Court and affirmative action rulings and policies. The resulting admissions statistics for the universities greatly favor Asian applicants overall. The Asian Males that were rejected ensured that Asian Female and members of other races had adequate placement opportunities in the university population.

Every minority group appreciates affirmative action when they benefit from it. They don't like it when their group becomes over-represented and suffers the perceived unfairness of the consequent bias necessary to prune their opportunities.


6 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2018 at 11:27 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

The evidence has been building over two decades so there are many references. The two most credible come from an analysis done at Princeton that estimated an Asian penalty of 140 SAT points and the evidence coming out of the Harvard lawsuit.

Below is a very readable summary of both sides of the debate.

Web Link

The statistical argument is built on data that shows that while the pool of qualified Asian applicants has dramatically increased the acceptance rates at elite schools has stayed flat or declined versus other ethnic groups.

The qualitative argument is built on concerns that "holistic" admissions criteria that go beyond grades, test scores and extracurricular activities have been used to discriminate against Asian applicants because of prejudicial negative stereotypes.

For example, the lawsuit claims at Harvard Asian applicants scored significantly lower in ratings for "Social Competence" even though nobody had interviewed the applicants in person. That measure included personal traits like “positive personality,” “likability,” “kindness,” and “humor.”

When compared to admissions rates from schools like CalTech with explicit policies not to consider race, the acceptance rates have tracked closely with the proportion of qualified applicants. Coincidentally, many elite schools like Harvard stopped reporting detailed admissions data when the bias concern was raised years ago.

Schools have a right to include non-academic criteria to shape the student body. However, using racial discrimination to pursue the goals of racial diversity is hypocritical and immoral.


2 people like this
Posted by Old Person
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:05 pm

@Sanc City - good summary. As a Harvard grad, I'm embarrassed how the school has and is handling it. Their reaction has not been to invite scrutiny and debate (and share data needed to enable it), but to stonewall and insist in histrionic terms that they are "doing what's best." It's a tough sell to an Asian candidate that what's best for Harvard and society is turning him/her down based on ethnic background.

If someone, anyone, could explain how this differs from how elite colleges handled Jewish candidates before WW II (soft quotas, didn't like the "cut of their jib"), that would be helpful. I've never seen it.


2 people like this
Posted by Reference
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:09 pm

@Sancti
The link you sent is comparing acceptance rates. Affirmative action has attempted to model the racial percentages of the population as a whole and ensuring the resulting accepted class tracks those percentages. you’ll need to look at the racial mix of the accepted class to determine if it tracks the population in general.

If you accept affirmative action, then if you double the number of qualified white applicants, you will cut their acceptance rate of n half. Acceptance rate is a good measure of how hard d it is to compete within your racial group, but it is not a measure of results to achieve the goals of affirmative action.


2 people like this
Posted by but wait!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2018 at 3:18 pm

@reference

I'm confused in one post you say "The ruling left use of race in admissions acceptable, but specific quotas are not."

But in another post you say "Affirmative action has attempted to model the racial percentages of the population as a whole and ensuring the resulting accepted class tracks those percentages."

so which is it? and I'm not trying to be snarky just want to understand your point.


Like this comment
Posted by Reference
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2018 at 4:10 pm

@But
AA strives for equality of opportunity by race as measured by outcomes relationship to percentage of population - but courts have ruled acceptance quotas ununacceptable. I did not create AA nor am I the court, so I am not responsible for either of its contradictions. I’m flattered that you think I could or should explain the contradictions. @Sancti strives for some measure of equality based on acceptance rate. What might you think fair. ? I would get rid of any AA and any other preferences, but I’m not the one in power to make such changes.

I maintain however, that the Bakke case claiming a more qualified white applicant was rejected due to racial and then age preference was 40 years ago so this is a very old debate that none of us are technically and legally worthy to debate. This thread is is all just people on the loosing side of AA griping about how unfair it is.


3 people like this
Posted by but wait!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2018 at 4:22 pm

@reference

thanks for response

as for losers of AA I would say society as a whole, those espousing that we should all be color blind in a perfect world have in fact moved us farther away with AA and the latest incarnation of "diversity" . Rather than not judging someone by the color of the skin we are in fact doing exactly the opposite to meet targets. Otherwise known as quotas, we see it in Universities and I saw it at the company I worked for. We can debate if that is right or wrong way to right previous wrongs, but let's be at least be honest with each other how it's being implemented.


3 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2018 at 9:01 pm

Hello Hello,

What the Hell?

Did we not learn that we should not name schools after people? What if someone research and find something offensive about the Japanese American that the school will be name after? Seems like in this case the problems already started before any name change happened.


Like this comment
Posted by Esther Granderson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2018 at 10:07 pm

If someone didn't want me in attendance, I certainly wouldn't force myself upon them. It's very bad etiquette & makes some people dislike you even further. Though their actions are wrong, sometimes you have to take the higher ground and simply walk away and/or ignore them.

You'll often feel better in the long run by not having groveled to the likes of despicable people and their narrow mindsets.

Incidentally, I am acquainted with a very nice young Asian man who wants pursue a career in acting after he completes Foothill College. He will probably face some disappointments and challenges in the way of stereotypical casting, but times are changing and the opportunities will eventually open up for those who are truly gifted and devoted to their craft.

To Sanctimonius City...there's always Yale.





3 people like this
Posted by No Name is the Best Name
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 27, 2018 at 12:46 pm

"Did we not learn that we should not name schools after people?"

Depends on the person being recognized as its namesake.

BTW, are you familiar with Custer High in South Dakota? It's located in the Black Hills region (former site of the Oglala Sioux nation). The town is also named after Custer (as well as the county). Gold miners in 1875 briefly renamed it Stonewall Jackson (after the Confederate general) but it soon went back to the townspeople's preferred choice 'Custer'.

Go Custer Wildcats! *groan*


Like this comment
Posted by Danville Expatriate
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 27, 2018 at 7:02 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Like this comment
Posted by Dr. Reality
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 27, 2018 at 9:14 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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