The San Ramon Valley school board is set to talk about whether to offer one permanent all-gender bathroom at each comprehensive high school campus Tuesday night.
Citing its continued efforts to create a safe and inclusive school environment for all students, the board last spring approved a one-semester pilot program to create an all-gender bathroom at all four San Ramon Valley Unified School District high schools.
District staff now recommends that the board keep the bathrooms permanently.
During the board's May 22 meeting, student leadership representatives from all four high schools -- Dougherty Valley and California in San Ramon, and Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley in Danville -- recommended that the board adopt the pilot program, explaining that the issue has been a hot topic among students for several years.
"These kids are not asking for the moon. They are asking for a place to pee," board member Rachel Hurd said at the May meeting, adding that the all-gender restroom is simply giving students more choices; if a student does not feel comfortable using it then they can move down the hall to the next restroom.
The school board is set to discuss the all-gender bathroom and other issues at its regularly scheduled meeting, Tuesday 7 p.m., 699 Old Orchard Drive in Danville.
In other business
* The long held practice of electing San Ramon Valley government officials through at-large voting may be coming to an end, as a voting rights group has sent a petition to the SRVUSD -- along with four other local government agencies -- calling for its transition to district based elections.
The petition, submitted by Scott Rafferty, Esq. on behalf of the Bay Area Voting Rights Initiative, is the first formal step under the California Voting Rights Act in moving the SRVUSD to district elections, essentially meaning residents would only vote for board member candidates in their designated geographic district -- as opposed to the current practice of all residents choosing to vote from all council candidates at-large.
The purpose for this, the petition states, is to prevent racially polarized voting and give better representation to demographics identified as a protected class.
“At -large voting dilutes minority electoral influence in the election of each of the legislative bodies in San Ramon Valley,” Rafferty wrote in the petition. “Your councils and boards should consider this advice as an opportunity to engage the community in a collaborative process that avoids adversary litigation.”
Enacted in 2002, the California Voting Rights Act provides support for residents who are in a “protected class,” stating that at-large elections impair the abilities of protected classes to influence the outcome of an election -- a protected class is defined as voters who are members of a race, color, or language minority group.
Rafferty did acknowledge the appointment of Susanna Ordway to the board -- the SRVUSD’s first ever person of color to serve, according to Rafferty -- but pointed out that she was selected by the board, and a person of color has never been appointed by an open election.
“By appointing Trustee Ordway, the board may have intended to recognize the value of having a representative of the Asian community. This sets the stage for an elected representative, who can serve as authentic choice of the Asian community,” Rafferty wrote.
The petition was also addressed to the town of Danville, city of San Ramon, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District and the Dublin San Ramon Services District, all of whom participate in at-large voting.
“(SRVUSD) looks forward to engaging with our partner agencies, as well as with our community, as part of our commitment to continually examine our practices the district is interested in a collaborative process that examines various options. As this conversation evolves, the District will provide updates to our SRVUSD community,” SRVUSD spokesperson Elizabeth Graswich said.
If approved, the school board would begin the process of hiring legal aid and a demographer to create voting districts.
* The school board will also discuss the district’s financial situation and review its biannual interim report.
According to district staff, the report has found that the district has maintained positive cash balance through the end of the 2018-19 year.
* Board members are expected to approve two new members to its Parcel Tax Oversight Committee, to serve for two-year terms ending in 2020.
Scott Roberts and Bridget Pelley are expected to be sworn in, according to a district staff report. They will be tasked with providing oversight for the board to ensure that funds from the parcel tax are being spent as intended by district voters.
Established in 2004, the parcel tax gives the school district a steady flow of income from local taxpayers, enabling the school board to fund both core academic programs and advanced placement courses for students. In 2015, the parcel tax was renewed by voter for an additional nine years, extending the funding until 2024.