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Life on the Island: Alameda Safe Schools curriculum

Life on the Island, the column I write for the Alameda Journal is up online now. This week it’s about the Alameda Unified School District’s proposed anti-bullying curriculum…the one that has generated buckets of publicity in recent months. I write, in part:

…teaching about same-gender families is no more about sex than the words “marriage” and “husband” and “wife” and “wedding” are about sex. Yes, marriage is based in part on a sexual commitment, but we speak about husbands and wives all the time in a way in which sexuality is not the focus. To children, the word lesbian is no more about sex than the word marriage is.

You can read the whole piece here.

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Alameda push poll on gay and lesbian school curriculum

A neighbor reports that she just got a phone call in which she was asked to answer a series of automated survey questions. Below is her best recollection of what she was asked:

Do you care about education in Alameda schools?

Do you believe that a curriculum explaining lesbian, gay and transgender issues should be allowed in the Alameda school district?

Do you think gay, lesbian and transgender are appropriate vocabulary to be teaching at the elementary school level?

Do you that marriage only between one man and one woman should be allowed in California?

(This last one is really confusing.)

She says she thinks there was one more substantive question and then the recorded voice asked two bits of demographic info. One, if she was 50 or older and, two, if she was male. The call came from a Washington, D.C. area code and was conducted by a survey company (she didn’t catch the name). Perhaps you too have received such a call? Perhaps you too will receive such a call?

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AUSD master planning meeting tonight at Haight School

Tonight is the first of three Alameda Unified School District community meetings about the future of Alameda schools. The idea, as I understand it, is to create a master plan for the public school system in Alameda. The meeting starts at 6:30 and Superintendent Kirsten Vital as well as members of the school board will be discussing three possible scenarios for addressing the long term fiscal sustainability of public education in Alameda. They’ll be discussing how dwindling state funding impacts the district, the possibility of chartering the district as on whole, as well as the possibility of generating more funds for Alameda schools at the local level. The meeting is at Haight Elementary.

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Alameda Anti-bullying curriculum meeting continued to Monday May 18

The Alameda Journal‘s report on Tuesday night’s Alameda school board meeting is here. Both KTUV and NBC came to town and did stories. Passions were high in the over-crowded council meeting room, and more than a hundred people who filled out speaker slips left without giving their two cents. At next Monday’s meeting, speakers will be given three minutes to talk…and who knows what will happen if more people show up wanting to weigh in. Here’s info about Monday’s meeting.

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School board meeting tonight: Alameda’s anti-bullying curriculum tonight

So, once again, an Alameda debate has hit the regional news. And the Christian right has picked up the story and run with it. There’s also a lot of heated rhetoric swirling around (check out the comments on this Blogging Bayport post).

I have to confess that the whole debate about this tiny piece of AUSD curriculum makes me sad and weary. It surprises me that in this day and age, in the Bay Area, that we are still so hostile to difference, so obsessed with other people’s sex lives, so afraid of ourselves and the world and others. What the AUSD curriculum aims to do is teach reality: that all families (the majority of families, in fact) don’t look like the Cleavers. Families have all sorts of configurations, incorporating grandparents and cousins, step-siblings and stepfathers, same gender couples and opposite gender couples. That is reality. We can not like it, but, in reality, families have great variety.

The curriculum also aims to address another reality: that kids can be cruel, and they can torment and tease and poke and prod so severely as to destroy lives (just look at suicide rates for gay and lesbian youth). And it is incumbent on us as a society to protect our children, all our children. Pretending that acceptance and cruelty are not serious school issues helps no one.

With all the fervor, tonight’s school board meeting is sure to be a heated one. But if we can remember the basics, live and let live, do onto others, love thy neighbor, I think we can put this in its proper place and move on, continuing on with our work and household chores and other duties and obligations…We can continue on with the life basics shared by and important to all families regardless of their configuration. Because, despite everything, we are all a whole lot more alike than we are different.

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Layoffs of Alameda city staff expected today

Michele Ellson of The Island stayed up to watch last night’s city council meeting and has this on job cuts in the city: “…the word is that we’re getting a list of the positions to be cut today, so I’m sure there will be more to come.” She also has, for your edification, a list of current city employees and their salaries and benefits. Both Alameda bloggers John Knox White and Lauren Do have other info on cuts to city staff.

Oh! For context: Oakland layoffs, Fremont layoffs, and Bay Area layoffs.

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In Alameda: Cleaning up after your dog

It is two or three times a week at least that I clean up dog poop from my yard, or my driveway, or the sidewalk in front of my house.

And I don’t have a dog.

At the school near where I live, there are very often piles of poop left there. I don’t blame the dog. You can’t blame the dog. I blame the dog owners who, through whatever trick of mental justification, leave their dog’s poop there.

As my neighbor H. Atkisson wrote in a recent letter to the editor:

I find myself wondering what is going on in Alameda that so many people find it socially acceptable to allow their dogs to poop on a lawn and walk away. Do the dog owners think that nobody will notice? That it will somehow be absorbed into the ground?

Atkisson ended with this plea:

It is illegal to let your dog roam without a leash, and it is illegal to leave your dog poop on public or private property. Please respect your neighbors and the law. Clean up your poop.

You can read the whole letter (though you must scroll down) here.

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Alameda schools, the anti-bullying curriculum

It would have been hard not to notice that there’s been a lot of heated discussion in Alameda about a proposed addition to the Alameda Unified School District’s anti-bullying curriculum. The Alameda Journal last week ran comments in support and against it.

Local Blogger Lauren Do has been tracing what specifically the curriculum will look like. And, for those of you interested, you can always find heated discussion in the comments on Do’s blog. Sometimes commentors make sense, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re nasty and contradictory, sometimes they’re not.

Opposition to the proposed curriculum runs the gamut. From those who believe that homosexuality is a sin, to those who fear that sexual terms will be introduced at too young an age. You can see all the lessons here. The Rev. Laura Rose, pastor of Alameda’s First Congregational Church, wrote this in a letter to the editor:

For those who object to this sort of curriculum on the basis that it is against a specific set of religious or moral beliefs, I would simply say that respect and tolerance for all people as children of God is the unifying and core principle of every world religion.

But more importantly, equality is the core principle of our Constitution and I believe a curriculum that enables children to see all people (and themselves) in a positive light is critical to AUSD’s mission of making Alameda a safe and welcoming place for all children and all families.

You can read Rose’s whole letter here (though you must scroll down). Happy Monday.