CUSD board poised to adopt new state policies - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

CUSD board poised to adopt new state policies

September 25th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
CUSD board poised to adopt new state policies
Community
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By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

The Chandler Unified School District is catching up with recent changes in state law this month, updating its policies to reflect some major shifts made by the state Legislature earlier this year.

“As you can see, our legislators have been pretty busy,” said Dr. Craig Gilbert, the district’s associate supervisor for Pre-K-12 educational services.

The changes were introduced at the Sept. 14 Governing Board meeting and are scheduled to be approved by that Board on Sept. 28.

The most controversial change by the Republican-controlled chambers deals with transgender athletes. The law requires districts to separate sports into boys, girls, co-ed or mixed and assign athletes to those teams based on their biological sex. It also allows students and their parents the right to sue if they are harmed by a school knowingly violating that.

While there was a lot of debate about the issue statewide and national, the Governing Board had little to say. They mostly listened to the changes being proposed. That may change when it comes to actually voting for them to comply with state law at the Sept. 28 meeting.

But at its Sept. 13 meeting, Kyrene School District Governing Board members had a lot to say about four of the laws, which also expand parental access to books in school libraries, require a minute or two of silence at the beginning of each school day and ban mandates for COVID or HPV vaccines for students.

Members condemned the laws and postponed a vote on the transgender policy in the hope that the district’s general counsel can craft the policy in a way that distances them and Kyrene from endorsing it.

The Kyrene board stressed, however, they would obey the new laws and unanimously approved the policies conforming to the library, silence and vaccine measures. They also indicated they would not disobey the transgender policy but wanted to see if language could be adopted that would not conflict with its equity policy.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association approved the first transgender athlete to compete in a high school sport in 2014. While the issue generates headlines, it will have an impact on a small number of students. The AIA has granted only 16 waivers to transgender athletes to compete since 2017.

Andi Young, who is co-chair of the Arizona Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), said there was no need for this new law.

“It was a solution looking for a problem,” Young said. “At the time it was approved, I believe there were 10 transgender kids competing, and none of them were the top in the state. And there were already rules in place about trans youth competing in sports. Our opponents like to target our transgender youth to fire up their base and get their voters to the polls.”

Here are the other changes:

• Schools are prohibited from referring students to, or using any sexually explicit material except allowed in sex education classes. There is an exemption for material that has serious educational value.

• Parents may request and view any records that relate to their children. They also have a right to know what books their child has checked out of the library. And parents have the right to sue the district if any of their parental rights have been violated.

• Schools cannot insist on students getting vaccinated against COVID-19 or any of its variants to attend classes.  The law barring mandated shots to protect against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus has been on the books since 2007 but the Legislature this year added a ban on mandating COVID-19 vaccines.

At the time of its passage, Arizona joined 23 other states in banning HPV shots on grounds it encouraged students to engage in sexual activity. By 2018, the Centers for Disease Control reported that more than 43 million teens and young adults had contracted some form of HPV, which can cause everything from genital warts to cancers.

• Districts cannot require young students to wear a mask without parental consent.

• Parents can sue the district if they usurp the rights of parents in the upbringing, education, health care or mental health of their children. This is primarily directed at the teaching on controversial sensitive issues.

• The district must add a 9/11 education day, where it gives age-appropriate lessons about the terrorist attacks in 2001.

• Outside contractors who work as school psychologists no longer need to be licensed if their work is in the educational institution setting.

• Both parents of current and prospective students have the right to visit a school and tour the campus or monitor a classroom.

• Increases the number of questions students must answer correctly on a civics test to graduate from 60 to 70.

• Schools must set aside one to two minutes each day for a moment of silence. Teachers cannot direct the students on what to meditate on. Students should consult with their parents on how best to use that time.

• Districts are modifying eligibility for waivers that allow a student to attend a school in another district than where he lives if there are logistical reasons (distance, transportation, etc.) why they cannot go to a school in their district.

• Hazing is now a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the victim dies, then it becomes a Class 4 felony. The major change is the definition of hazing.

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