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Tuesday, Dec 18 2012 12:01 AM

Safe and Inclusive Schools Curriculum nears completion

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Safe and Inclusive Schools Curriculum Parent Committee member Amy Webster explains to the Tehachapi Unified School District’s Board of Trustees what changes were made to existing lessons developed last year by the District Curriculum Committee during the board’s Dec. 11 meeting. Photo by Matthew Martz/Tehahcapi News

To remain in compliance with the federally mandated "Resolution Agreement" between the Tehachapi Unified School District, and the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice, which followed the suicide of 13-year-old Seth Walsh just little of two years ago, the district's 6th through 12th grade Safe and Inclusive Schools Curriculum may be nearing completion.

After a few months of meetings, three of the seven mothers and fathers on the Parent Committee assembled to make revisions to the lessons originally developed by the District Curriculum Committee that came under fire by parents last year, took the podium to provide an update during the Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 11.

"We wanted it to make the point it needed to make but in a more sensitive manner," said committee member Amy Webster. "And we are hopeful for the approval of the changes we made."

The biggest being -- softening the curriculum's language, while focusing the lessons on harassment and discrimination in general, with sex and gender being just a part of it.

"Some of the terms used were abrasive and is just not the way you want your child to learn about sexual harassment or orientation," said Peggy Horn who served on the committee and has four students in district schools.

"We brainstormed ideas from all the parents about issues that were brought up and how to make the curriculum something that everyone can embrace and be comfortable with," she added. "We went through all 6th through 12th grade lessons page by page and made little changes here and there. After making a very thorough definition of what sexual harassment was, we made sure the language was thorough but tender."

Chosen by District Superintendent Lisa Gilbert for their diverse geographical, and socio-economic backgrounds, the selected parents came together to represent each of their respective groups.

"We were all very diversified in our thoughts and I hope that what we have been able to provide what will be of some use to help our little assets we have in the world," committee member Jim Pendleton said. "Something that we can use without any issues or concerns in the future."

The committee met seven times during its review process, first learning about the resolution agreement that the district entered into with the DOJ, then going over the specific requirements of the student curriculum.

It then reviewed the district's board and administrative polices concerning discrimination, specifically harassment and bullying, and discussed the results of the 2012 Healthy Kids Survey specifically focused on campus safety and the student's perception of the LGBT student population.

"The committee created a very powerful conversation," Gilbert said. " And the exchange of perspectives in my opinion has created a curriculum I think everyone can be happy with."

The recommendation was presented to the District Curriculum Committee, which is made up of teachers and various site and district administrators on Dec. 13. Pending consent of the recommendations, the revised curriculum will brought back to the board for final approval on Jan. 27.

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