Could cultural proficiency or better networking with groups and organizations representing minority groups have prevented a recent lawsuit at Sierra High School?
That was one of the questioned posed by the members of the Manteca Unified School Board last week when they discussed the status of the district’s administrative regulation and board policy regarding cultural proficiency – a cause championed by resigned trustee Ashley Drain before she stepped away from her elected position amidst allegations of election fraud.
According to Trustee Sam Fant, there may be somewhat of an opinion amongst local LGBTQ groups that Manteca Unified isn’t being as active as it should be in the community and addressing the concerns that students may face on campus.
Fant said he was approached by the Director of the San Joaquin Pride Center while walking through Downtown Stockton after news had broke that a student at Sierra High School had been suspended for wearing a t-shirt that said “Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian.”
That student ultimately contacted the American Civil Liberties Union who sued the district and the administrators who handed out the punishment on her behalf, and ultimately won – receiving a $1 settlement and an agreement that the district will overhaul its existing dress code and the way it approaches situations in the future.
While Manteca Unified does have student unions and clubs for gay and lesbian students and people who support them, Fant said that he was caught off guard when asked why Manteca Unified had not participated in outreach efforts conducted by the Pride Center.
“I was told that we’re the only district that has not been at the table actively participating in the concerns of the LGBTQ community, and there’s nothing like being at a loss for words as to why they haven’t been responded to,” Fant said. “That’s something that I would definitely like to have addressed.
“We have to ask ourselves at the end of the day what’s most important to us and it should be our children. And this benefits not just the kids, but the staff that is interacting with those kids.”
Per the board’s direction, administrative staff will look into furthering the discussion about cultural proficiency and bring it back to the board for consideration.
According to Superintendent Jason Messer, underrepresented groups in the communities the district serves have been in contact with senior administrative staff about informational events in the past, and he will work to make sure that information gets provided to the board so they can attend if they so choose.
Messer used the example of the Manteca Islamic Center and the open house that representatives from Manteca Unified were invited to in order to a perspective to be able to better serve Muslim students.
And board member Stephen Schluer also pointed out what when cultural proficiency is something that is discussed, while it’s often the largest groups that get mentioned first – like black and Hispanic students – that there are other cultural groups that need to be taken into account as well.