Teachers’ union challenges MVLA calendar, alleges lack of trust

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Zoe Morgan/Town Crier
Students arrive at Los Altos High School, where first period begins at 8:10 a.m. most days. The district plans to push start times back, but the union has objected to a calendar the board of trustees passed Jan. 13.

Just a few months ago, the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District looked on track to adopt a new calendar and bell schedule in time to implement later school start times in the fall. Now the future of those negotiations is uncertain.

New year, new decisions: LASD board faces busy calendar

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District has yet to decide which school will ultimately sit on the 10th site it purchased last month. Currently, the land is occupied by a variety of businesses, above.

The new year is in full swing, and the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees is facing decisions on four distinct but interconnected issues: reaching an agreement on a long-term location for Bullis Charter School, choosing how to use a 10th school site the district purchased in Mountain View, deciding whether to move to a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school model and updating the district’s facilities master plan.

Los Altos School District creates standardized, districtwide dress code

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees is on the cusp of approving a new, districtwide dress code, aimed at being gender-neutral and equitable to all students.

At last week’s meeting, the board reviewed language for the dress code, formally known as the “student dress and grooming” policy, that would apply to all students across the district. Currently, each school determines its own policies around student attire.

According to Superintendent Jeff Baier, the goal was to create “a policy that allowed for … freedom of expression in dress, but also ensured that we have a safe learning environment.”

The new policy, which would take effect next school year, states, “All students should be able to dress comfortably for school without fear of discipline or body shaming, as such dress code enforcement should be the least restrictive and disruptive to the student’s school day.”

The dress code lays out guidelines on what students can and cannot wear, including that “fabric covering all private parts must not be see-through” and that tops “must have fabric in the front, back and on the sides.” Although clothing must cover undergarments, waistbands and bra straps are excluded.

That’s different from the status quo, where some schools have restrictions on specific types of clothing. At Egan Junior High School, for example, the handbook posted online, which is from last school year, states that tank tops must cover the bra strap and hemlines should reach mid-thigh or 6 inches above the knee.

The new policy also protects students’ ability to dress “in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression or with their religious or cultural observance.” In compliance with a state law passed last year, the policy states that students can’t be discriminated against “based on hair texture and protective hairstyles, including, but not limited to, braids, locks, and twists.”

According to board president Bryan Johnson, the purpose of the new policy is to ensure the focus is on the learning environment rather than aesthetic considerations.

“Aesthetics for aesthetics sake is not why we have a dress code,” Johnson said. “We have a dress code to make it clear that students need to come dressed in a way that is consistent with the kind of learning environment that we’re trying to establish at our schools.”

Defining ‘inappropriate’

The discussion around creating an updated, districtwide dress code was sparked last March when the board was reviewing school safety plans. The documents, which are specific to each school, cover topics ranging from emergency and disaster planning to hate crime reporting procedures.

Dress codes are among the issues addressed. The documents stated that the district did not currently have a dress code, but also included “inappropriate attire” on a list of prohibited conduct.

Trustee Jessica Speiser, who was then board president, said at the time that more definition was needed around what constituted “inappropriate attire” and added that it was important the restriction wasn’t applied disproportionately to girls.

She and other trustees at the meeting said they had heard anecdotally of girls being “dress-coded” for having exposed bra straps or wearing shorts deemed too short.

Speiser said in an interview last week that it was important to her that the district have a dress code that is gender-neutral and nondiscriminatory. Dress codes in districts throughout the country have garnered attention for how they can disproportionately affect women, LGBT students and people of color.

“I am done with everything being blamed on the girls,” Speiser said of traditional dress codes. “If it’s distracting to boys, we need to teach the boys not to be distracted.”

Instead, she said the appropriate role of a dress code is to ensure students’ attire is safe for the activities they are participating in and doesn’t offend others. The new policy requires that clothing be suitable for all scheduled activities, including PE and science labs. It also prohibits clothing that features hate speech, is sexually explicit or depicts alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other controlled substances.

Creating the policy

In drafting the districtwide dress code, Director of Student and Staff Services Erin Green reviewed other districts’ policies, as well as sample language from the California School Boards Association.

She also met with groups of students at both junior high schools, as well as some elementary schools. They were shown draft language and asked for feedback.

“Students really had positive things to say,” Green said. “They liked that it gave them some autonomy in what they wanted to wear.”

In particular, she said students noted that it wasn’t biased based on gender, treated kids equally, wasn’t punitive and protected students’ ability to express themselves religiously and culturally.

The staff leadership team, which includes principals and other administrators, came to a consensus on the policy’s language, Green said.

Assuming the board formally signs off on the policy, the district will work to educate staff, students and parents about the new guidelines. According to Baier, district administrators will review the policy with principals to develop a plan for its implementation and work to ensure consistency across sites.

The board plans to have final approval of the plan on the agenda for its Monday meeting.

Schools Briefs: New head of schools and a photography exhibition

Los Altos Christian names head of schools

The Los Altos Christian Schools board unanimously named Cathy Robinson the new head of schools, effective Jan. 16.

Robinson previously served as acting principal and has worked at the school for 28 years. The board appointed Robinson on the unanimous recommendation of a search committee, according to a press release.

“After months of prayer, and God’s confirmation through our Search Team, faculty, staff, parents, and friends, we believe God’s hand is on Cathy to serve in this vital role,” Pastor Dave Gudgel said in the release. “We are excited to see how God will use her to continue the good work that is already being done here as she leads our LACS community.”

Los Altos Christian Schools, a ministry of Bridges Community Church, is a private school serving preschool through ninth- grade students. The school is located at 625 Magdalena Ave.

For more information, visit lacs.com.

Foothill’s KCI to host photography exhibition

The Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College is scheduled to host “The Corrective Lens,” an exhibition featuring 29 photographs depicting 13 countries, Thursday through March 20.

According to a release from the college, “The Corrective Lens” aims to celebrate the diversity of cultures and people from around the world and offer a message of unity.

“Storytelling is universal; it’s in our DNA,” Harlan Crowder, whose images of Burma and Cuba are included in the show, said in the release. “It’s the fundamental way humans connect.”

An opening reception is slated 7-9 p.m. Thursday, and an artist talk is set for noon to 1 p.m. March 11.

The exhibition will be located in the KCI Gallery, on the lower level of KCI at Foothill College, 12345 S. El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.

The center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed Sundays and holidays.

For more information, visit TheCorrectiveLens.photo.blog.

Noteworthies: Local college students make dean's list

  • Sara Bares and Meghan Perna of Los Altos made the fall semester dean’s list at Belmont University, which requires a minimum course load of 12 hours and a GPA of 3.5 with no grade below a C.
  • Los Altos resident Aria Mendhekar, Class of 2023, made the fall semester dean’s list at Connecticut College, achieving Dean’s High Honors.

Four local students made the fall semester dean’s list at Baylor University, which requires a minimum GPA of 3.7 while enrolled in at least 12 semester hours.

  • Los Altos: Melissa L. Doyel, Louise Herrington School of Nursing, and Rebecca Cheri Smith, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Mountain View: Sarah Christina Caylor, Hankamer School of Business, and Hayley Grace Myers, Hankamer School of Business

Eleven local students made the fall semester dean’s list at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which requires completion of a minimum of 12 graded degree credits in that semester. Each university school or college sets its own GPA requirements.

  • Los Altos: Margaret Eggleton, School of Education; Amy Lang, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Rachel Rosen, College of Letters and Science; Skylar Scull, College of Letters and Science; and Matthew Woo, College of Letters and Science
  • Los Altos Hills: Conor Gallivan, College of Engineering, dean’s honor list; Katherine Pederson, School of Business; and Charles Pun, College of Engineering, dean’s honor list
  • Mountain View: Yuxi Lin, College of Letters and Science; Sam Tobin, College of Engineering, dean’s honor list; and Emre Ustuner, College of Engineering, dean’s honor list

Los Altos High construction faces weather-related delays

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The foundation for a two-story classroom building at Mountain View High School, above, is complete. Progress has been slower at Los Altos High.

Construction of new classroom buildings is underway in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, but recent wet weather brought delays to the project at Los Altos High.


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