[EDEQUITY URGENT from California Women's Law Center]

From: Linda Purrington (lpurring@earthlink.net)
Date: Mon Jul 10 2000 - 09:52:33 EDT


Susan Berke Fogel wrote:
>
> URGENT ACTION NEEDED
>
> Dear Education Advocates:
>
> The California Board of Education has issued regulations for public
> comment to implement California's anti-discrimination laws, the Sex
> Equity in Education Act, in K-12 schools. To our dismay, these
> regulations do not at all reflect the hard work of the External Working
> Group. These draft regs are wholly inadequate and completely FAIL to
> address the protections for students that are required under the law.
>
> A public hearing on these draft regulations will be held in Sacramento
> at the Board of Education on Thursday, July 13 at 11:00.
>
> The California Women's Law Center has written comments on the
> regulations, and will be testifying at the hearing. We invite you to
> submit comments based on the sample letter below and to attend the
> hearing. We have also produced more detailed comments and will forward
> them to you if you would like to sign on with us or submit them under
> your own letterhead.
>
> In addition, we will be holding a press conference on the steps of the
> Board of Education at 10:00 to announce our tremendous disappointment at
> the Board's actions. We hope you can attend.
>
> COMMENTS ARE DUE AT THE BOARD BY 11:00 AM ON THURSDAY JULY 13. THEY CAN
> BE FAXED TO 916/657-3844.
>
> It is important that the Board hear from others in the community about
> these regulations too. It would be especially powerful if girls who are
> impacted by discrimination in schools could come to the hearing and to
> the press conference.
>
> The regulations do not adequately address the following issues;
> 1 ) they provide limited guidance on issues related to sexual harassment
> and discrimination;
> 2) they completely fail to address the civil rights of pregnant and
> parenting teens under either a separate section or within the definition
> of sex;
> 3) the definition of sex does not contain the term gender, which is in
> new Education section 200 (AB499);
> 4) harassment is defined as "unwelcome" conduct, even with respect to
> race, national origin, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation,
> contrary to case law and common sense;
> 5) there is not sufficient guidance for other protected classes against
> harassment and discrimination as there is for sex, and this is
> insufficient;
> 6) the regulations do not address club athletics, which is how new
> sports are cultivated at the high school level.
> >
> If there are others who you think should be included, would you please
> pass on this email or have them contact us directly.
>
> Please let me know as soon as possible if you are able to testify and/or
> participate in a press conference.
>
> SAMPLE LETTER
>
> Ms. Peggy Peters,
> Regulations Adoption Coordinator
> California Department of Education
> 721 Capitol Mall, Room 556
> PO Box 944272
> Sacramento, CA 94244-2720
> Fax 916/657-3844
>
> Dear Ms. Peters,
>
> I am writing on behalf of [name of organization and short description]
> to register our concerns with the proposed Sex Equity in Education
> regulations amending Title V of the California Code of Regulations. As
> currently drafted, these regulations do not provide an accurate or
> comprehensive guide to the law and inadequately prepare school officials
> to handle incidents of discrimination and harassment.
>
> The regulations fail to address key issues regarding discrimination and
> harassment. Sex harassment continues to be an ongoing problem in
> schools. A recent study by Asians & Pacific Islanders for Reproductive
> Health (APIRH) found that 82% of high school girls surveyed had been
> sexually harassed in school. In addition, 50% of students had not been
> informed by the school about policies and procedures relating to sexual
> harassment, and 70% of students did not know how to use the official
> grievance procedure to make a complaint about harassment. In the
> regulations, harassment is defined as "unwelcome" conduct, a definition
> that contradicts both current case law and common sense. The types of
> abusive conduct prohibited by law, such as sexual or racial harassment
> by teachers or fellow students, are, by their nature, never "welcome."
> The definition of harassment in these regulations erroneously suggests
> that if a student cannot prove that a teacher's sexual advances were
> "unwelcome" then the behavior would not be considered unlawful
> harassment. The emphasis on the "welcomeness" of the behavior is
> contrary to current law and sends precisely the wrong message to school
> administrators.
>
> Another problem with the regulations' treatment of sexual harassment is
> the omission of the term gender in the definition of sex. The Board's
> regulations must strictly follow and interpret the Legislature's
> mandate, which includes protection from discrimination on the basis of
> gender. Protection on this basis prohibits discrimination and
> harassment based on gender stereotypes. The failure to include gender
> creates a strong suggestion that gender-based harassment is not
> prohibited by these regulations. The Board has no authority to narrow
> the scope of the statue's protection and must include gender in the
> definition of sex.
>
> Not only do the regulations provide limited guidance for dealing with
> issues related to discrimination and harassment on the basis of sex, but
> also there is a near-complete omission of any reference to forms of
> unlawful harassment other than sexual harassment. Both the California
> Legislature and the courts have made it clear that harassment on other
> bases, such as race, national origin, religion, ethnicity, and sexual
> orientation, is also a prohibited form of discrimination. These other
> forms of discrimination and harassment must be fully addressed by The
> regulations to ensure our schools are equipped to respond to incidents
> of all types of harassment.
>
> Finally, the regulations fail to address the legal protections for
> pregnant and parenting teens that are required by law, and that help
> these girls stay in school and get a quality education. Although the
> teen birth rate has declined recently, over 60,000 teens give birth in
> California every year. These adolescents form an important group who
> needs the protection of the law to receive the same educational
> opportunities as other students. Currently, these teens are often
> segregated from the mainstream educational system and fail to receive an
> adequate education that prepares them for their futures. Their rights
> must be explicitly protected in these regulations to ensure their right
> to an equal education. The regulations' definition of sex must
> explicitly state the statutory definition of sex as including "actual or
> potential parental, family or marital status of a person, or the
> exclusion of any person from any program or activity or employment
> because of pregnancy or related conditions." Cal. Educ. Code 230(e)
> (Deering 2000).
>
> The omissions and inexactness of these regulations mean that they do not
> provide reliable or sufficient guidance to school officials in handling
> incidents of discrimination and harassment. We urge the board to
> address the inadequacies and inaccuracies of the current regulations
> before promulgating the guidelines.
>
> Thank you for your time and consideration.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> --
> Susan Berke Fogel
> Legal Director
> California Women's Law Center
> 3460 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1102
> Los Angeles, CA 90010
> 213.637.9900 tel
> 213.637.9909 fax
> susan@cwlc.org



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