Officials and community members at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District debated updates to district policies on its athletic programs last week aimed at aligning local policies with recently approved state guidelines.
The discussion raised a number of hot-button topics in the district, including recent controversy over a viral social media post of San Ramon cheerleaders with a mannequin head that resulted in racism allegations – and criticism of officials' handling of the situation – as well as transgender youth in school sports, disclosure of students' participation in athletic activities, and updated health and safety guidelines.
SRVUSD Superintendent John Malloy began the conversation at the board's Oct. 18 meeting by seeking to clarify that the proposed changes align with state guidelines and are being recommended to districts across the state, rather than being developed or proposed internally.
As an example, Malloy pointed specifically to the portion of the changes called for by the California School Boards Association related to requirements surrounding gender identity, participation in sports, and use of single-sex facilities.
"That portion of the policy is just CSBA's request -- it's your choice. But it's actually the law whether we put that in policy or not," Malloy told the SRVUSD board.
"We must comply with that," he continued. "It's nothing to do with anything that's been decided or determined by me, my staff, or the board. It's actually the state that requires that."
In a public comment, resident Matthew Hoffman said that one part of the changes up for discussion that night not required by CSBA was a section on racism and sports mascots, pointing to the recent incident at California High School that has continued to garner controversy throughout the district and community, and suggesting clarifications to prevent similar incidents in the future.
"Instead of saying 'this is bad' we should say that the use of any school athletic team name mascot or nickname will be approved by the superintendent … so then there's no more gray area. Because if the students were going around with a mascot that wasn't approved by the superintendent or a designee, they're in the wrong," Hoffman said.
"That's easy," he continued. "And if they are doing something with a mascot, it was approved by the superintendent or a designee, and someone comes by and says 'hey that mascot is wrong' the team right there says 'hey we didn't do anything wrong'."
Malloy said that it was in fact clear in district policy that official mascots and team names were to be approved by the district, but agreed that making this point more obvious in updates to the policy might be in order.
"We're actually clear on this, and that is that there shall be no mascots except those that are approved. Period," Malloy said. "And the 35 school mascots are all approved. So I think what we just need to add is there is no process to approve any others because it's not allowed."
"And we've communicated that clearly to our schools, especially after the challenges we had in the spring," he continued. "So if it would be clearer, we can certainly add that to this policy just so that it's absolutely clear that there's no need for a process because there's no ability to change that which has already been approved."
The agenda item at the board's Oct. 18 meeting was informational only, with the topic set to return at the Nov. 16 board meeting.
In other business on Oct. 18, the trustees voted unanimously to approve a tentative agreement with the San Ramon Valley Education Association for an 8.5% salary increase and other increases to benefits for unionized teachers.