Director of Counseling and Psychological Services terminated after raising concerns about allocation of mental health funds

Published: The California Aggie. February 16, 2018. Viewable here

On Feb. 9, 2018, Sarah Hahn, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services, was made aware that Margaret Walter, the director of Student Health and Wellness, intended to terminate her from her position. Hahn was presented with a letter from Walter stating that her termination would be effective on Feb. 23. Until that date, Hahn has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The letter comes on the heels of mounting criticism and concern expressed by Hahn to both her superiors and administrators at UC Davis, as well as officials from the UC Office of the President, that an increase in student fees for the ongoing $18 million mental health initiative from UCOP was not spent to hire 12 additional counselors at UC Davis, as the money was intended to do. A recent investigation published by The Aggie confirms that UC Davis has not hired an additional 12 counselors and that a portion of the money was not spent as it was meant to be.

“You have failed to demonstrate the professionalism, tact and diplomacy required of your position,” Walter stated in the letter. “This intended action is in response to serious and substantial deficiencies in the execution of your duties, namely your failure to provide effective leadership to Counseling Services. This is evidenced by your failure to provide the expected and necessary level of administrative oversight, an inability to support a positive team environment, and a lack of proficiency in college mental health service delivery.”

Hahn has served as director of Counseling and Psychological Services since 2013.

The letter was delivered one day after Hahn filed an official Whistleblower Retaliation Report — which protects those who have come forward with concerns of improper governmental activity and feel they are being targeted for doing so — with the Office of Campus Compliance. Hahn said she filed the report after learning “that an HR investigation” which targeted her “was being conducted in a manner, and at a time which [she feels to be] consistent with possible retaliation against [her] for protected disclosures.”

“I was concerned that I had been retaliated against for reporting issues related to the limited number of counselors in Counseling Services,” Hahn said via email. “I was concerned that I would be terminated as a result of these disclosures. I had expressed, multiple times, that Counseling Services was not growing its staff as we should be, given the new Mental Health Fee which is specifically earmarked to hire new counselors. When I have brought up such concerns I often felt intimidated.”

Hahn said she was unsure as to why she was given the letter on Feb. 9, but then remembered a Management Corrective Action outlined in a recent internal audit of UC Davis Counseling Services performed in late 2017. The action states that SHCS will consult with Budget and Institutional Analysis “to determine a level of access to, or specific original output from financial systems that is appropriate to the Counseling Services Director’s responsibilities.” Hahn would have been granted access to financial information on Feb. 15 — six days after she received notice of her termination.

In response to news regarding the intent to terminate Hahn, the Facebook page “Stealing From Students: Our Mental Health Matters” stated that Hahn “had been in contact with students about the 12 missing counselors and advocating to upper administration for transparency regarding the lack of promised hires.” The post received close to 120 shares and around 100 likes and reactions.

“When I inquired about the status of counselor hirings in late 2016, Sarah Hahn reiterated that she would do her best to find all necessary information and advocate for the counselors students had already paid for with our fees,” said Samantha Chiang, a fourth-year English major and the director of the UC Davis Mental Health Initiative. “Now knowing that the other administrators in Student Health had been deceiving us all along, I’m not surprised in the slightest that they have chosen to silence Sarah and make her the scapegoat for all of their appalling errors.”

Recently, on Feb. 13, a Mental Health Town Hall was held by SHCS to discuss UC Davis mental health and was attended by around 200 students, faculty and community members. During the hour-long audience Q&A, Katrina Manrique, a fourth-year English major, asked the panel of administrators, including Walter, about the termination of Sarah Hahn.

“[Hahn] has been a consistent advocate for the 12 missing counselors,” Manrique said. “And now that that audit has been released and she has filed for whistleblower protection, she has been fired. Many students have expressed immense displeasure in this decision. You made it very clear that you all want to work with students, but how can you all take away the one person who’s advocated for our demands? We don’t want apologies, we want answers.”

Manrique’s comment was met with loud cheers and snaps from the audience, and a chant of “shame, shame on you, shame on you, Margaret” from one audience member.

“We want to be accountable to you,” Walter stated in response to the comment. “It breaks my heart you thought you had one contact, I want to be a good contact to you. We can’t comment on any confidential personnel issues related to what you just mentioned, but we all want to be contacts for you and advocates for you.”

Chiang then responded that Hahn was “the one who didn’t lie to our face about counselors being hired.” At the end of the event, there were chants of “bring back Sarah” from multiple students in attendance.

In the chronology of events Hahn provided to Chief Compliance Officer Wendi Delmendo as well as The Aggie, she stated that she expressed “concerns that earlier financial agreements were not being met, that some decisions about Counseling had been made” without her knowledge and “that there was a lack of transparency” with her administrative supervisors, including current Assistant Vice Chancellor for Divisional Resources of Student Affairs Cory Vu in an email in January of 2017.

According to Hahn’s chronology, in April of 2017, she emailed Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Adela de la Torre after letting Vu know she would be doing so, to remind de la Torre that “as she knew, the Regents had agreed to raise student fees to support hiring 85 mental health clinicians systemwide, growing the counseling center’s clinical staff by 43 percent.” Hahn said she told de la Torre that “by next year, the UCD Counseling Service will only have increased by one counselor over a three year period. The one additional counselor is due to externally funded satellite positions. There is no increase in counselors which is attributable to new funds.”

Three hours after she sent this email, Hahn said Vu contacted her telling her “not to communicate” her “concerns to UCOP.”

A meeting was held in May with Hahn, Vu and other UC Davis officials. Hahn shared an email she received from Vu in May of 2017 with The Aggie. In it, Vu referenced this meeting, held to discuss Hahn’s “concerns about Counseling Services’ (CS) funding and staffing levels.” Vu then outlined the expectations he required of Hahn.

“Follow the chain of command protocol when you need consultation or to address some other matter such as a complaint,” Vu stated in the email from May of 2017. “Comply with the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs’, Associate Vice Chancellor’s , and Executive Director of Student Health and Counseling Services’ requests, instructions, or directives. Stand behind the campus’, division’s, and organization’s decisions and work ardently toward their realization, even if you would have chosen a different direction.”

In her statement to The Aggie about the letter, Hahn said she “was accused of violating communications protocols/procedures (inaccurately), or making others uncomfortable with the information.”

“There seemed to be no way to make queries about financial matters related to the Mental Health Fees that was not met with criticism,” Hahn said. “But it was my job to be a steward of allocated Mental Health funds; I did not of course have the option to ignore this responsibility.”

In an email to Vu and former Associate Vice Chancellor of Divisional Resources John Campbell — the position Vu currently serves in — Hahn discussed her inability to obtain financial data.

“Despite the fact that I am the Director of the Counseling Services and a member of the Executive Team and the Governing Body, I have not been able to successfully obtain clarifying financial data about my area,” Hahn said. “Such requests have yielded the response, for years, that I am not being a team player or am not fostering good relationships with my colleagues, which I have been told is a performance issue. This had effectively shut down my ability to get information for the past 3.5 years out of fears that my job will be threatened. Just yesterday I was told that my questions about finances was creating a divide in our organization. I find these comments threatening. I find them to be an indication, again, that requests for financial clarity will be used against me.”

Hahn said she believes the May meeting with Vu “was an effort to intimidate” her “into silence and be part of a cover up.”

“I was told that concerns had been raised that I was talking to CS staff regarding budgetary issues and my concern about lack of growth in our counseling department,” Hahn said in her whistleblower chronology. “I was told that my communication about these matters was a professionalism issue and had to stop immediately. I was told that I was insulting members of the Budget staff by asking questions, and upsetting the HR manager when I asked about delayed hires.”

In June of 2017, Hahn said she received a below-average yearly evaluation from Vu.

“I indicated to Cory [Vu] that it was not appropriate that he downgrade me, because my performance only became problematic in his eyes once I reported concerns about how the monies were being spent,” Hahn said. “My performance had not changed in any way since before I reported concerns. He cited my relationships with HR and the Administrative Director of SHCS. I indicated that my communications with the HR department were in the context of asking them to initiating hires as we were expected to, and my communications with the Administrative Director and team was related to raising concerns about funding. My downgraded performance was clearly causal to retaliation for my asking appropriate questions and concerns about stalled hires and lack of clarity about funds.”

In June, Margaret Walter was hired as the new UC Davis director of Health and Wellness, replacing Vu in directly overseeing Student Health and Counseling Services. Hahn said she sent an email response to university and UCOP officials stating that “it was hard to ascertain if we were receiving the funds.” Later in June, Hahn said Walter referred to the email as unprofessional, perpetuating what Hahn says is “representative of a pattern” that if she discussed the mental health fund, she was accused of unprofessionalism. Walter cites Hahn’s professionalism issues in the intent of termination letter.

One of the findings of the audit showed a low number of clinical sessions per day per counselor. Counseling psychologists have expressed concerns with the numbers published.

In October of 2017, Hahn said the findings of the audit concerning low productivity data were discussed. According to Hahn, there was an agreement that “counseling should not be allowed to hire more counselors until this matter was looked into.” Hahn said she was not in support of this agreement.

“I explained again that delay was not an option, and the funds are not set up to be held back by campuses,” Hahn said. “That is not the initiative. There was agreement around the table (not by me) that there was neither a mandate by UCOP nor a mandate from the Provost to follow [UCOP’s] recommendation.”

Hahn sent an email to UCOP officials in November of 2017.

“We need outside help; it is apparent [to] me that, at this point, it will take a VERY clear and powerful voice to reverse the current,” Hahn said she stated in her email to UCOP. “There needs to be unequivocal clarity that current, future, and past MH Fees need to be allocated to Counseling, without condition or delay, in order to immediately hire licensed clinicians to serve the students. I think this would need to be communicated at all levels of leadership on our campus.”

In December, Hahn said she asked Walter whether productivity was an area of improvement, but Walter said “‘not to worry about it.’” Hahn said she was worried because productivity would be in her yearly evaluation and said she felt she “was being threatened without being given information or opportunity.”

Walter did mention productivity issues in her letter of intent to terminate, stating that “clinical productivity has been alarmingly low for several years under your leadership.” Walter also stated that Hahn had “described the productivity data in the audit as ‘inherently flawed.’”

Katie Fuller, the UC Davis Human Resources manager, Vu and Walter all responded with the same decline to comment — “Unfortunately, I am not permitted to comment on confidential personnel matters.” Vu and Walter also did not respond to any of the aforementioned claims which allegedly involved them.

Hahn said she hopes to be able to “continue to serve” the “amazing students” of UC Davis.

“Anyone who is trying to uphold our commitment to the students deserves to be protected from retaliation- not walked out of the office the day after they ask for that protection,” Hahn said. “I have faith that mistakes have been made, and will be quickly corrected. We are better than this.”


Reacting to inflammatory speech

Published: The California Aggie. June 11, 2017. View here.


While at the Silo, Pete Srivarom overheard a group of individuals vocalizing inflammatory and discriminatory messages. One of the preachers began to personally attack Srivarom on the basis of his ethnicity and sexual orientation.

“He asked me if I was gay and I said yes,” Srivarom, a first-year environmental science and management double major, said. “He said, ‘Oh, were you a child prostitute living in poverty and some young American gay molested you?’ What kind of person does that?”

Michelle Occhipinti, a first-year communications and managerial economics double major, decided to post in the Freshmen Class of 2020 Facebook Group and share her thoughts on how best to react to these potentially hurtful messages. Her post received over 157 comments and 165 reactions.

“Many people were personally targeted and that is not okay, but attacking them back doesn’t help,” Occhipinti said. “They’re not going to change their mind if you call them mean names or if you insult them the same way they insult you. Do something to spread a positive message to counter it.”

Occhipinti’s Facebook post resulted in a slew of separate discussions, some more contentious than others. Srivarom was one of the individuals who commented their disagreement with Occhipinti’s opinions.

“She was saying that we should give respect to him, but he’s not giving respect to us,” Srivarom said. “Saying we should take the high road and attack the idea not the person, but why doesn’t that apply to him?”

UC Davis is one of many colleges nationwide grappling to find the proper response to repugnant speech on campus. Responses by UC Davis students and faculty to the controversial Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ scheduled speech earlier this year included reserving tickets to the event, protesting outside of the reserved building and writing a letter demanding a cancellation. Dr. Jeffrey Weiner wrote an op-ed about reactions to the event, which was ultimately shut down due to safety concerns.

“Now we’ve gotten to the point where we have the regressive left that controls not just this university but every university [and] they don’t allow people they disagree with vehemently to come,” Weiner said. “That’s a real problem, because it teaches students that the response to things that are distasteful is to shut it out. [Instead], you may go to Milo Yiannopoulos’ event, […] walk out and say, ‘What a jerk, but at least I listened.’”

Weiner said he advocates for open dialogue in the face of offensive speech. The UC-wide “Principles Against Intolerance,” which was adopted by the Board of Regents in 2016, promotes fighting “abhorrent” speech with “more speech.” Daniel LaBolle, a first-year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major, also supports open discussion.

“Even if other people’s views are possibly factually wrong, to hear them and understand why they’re understanding the things they’re saying is essential,” LaBolle said. “If you’re going to convince someone and actually really change their mind, you have to first hear their view and then respond to it.”

However, fourth-year history major Elly Oltersdorf said that there is a time for open discussion, but not in response to hate speech.

“When it comes to someone who holds completely open white supremacist views, transphobic views or Islamophobic views, to engage in a dialogue with that is just to validate something that is, at its base, completely irrational and not defensible,” Oltersdorf said. “When people hold views that invalidate the existence of somebody else, then it’s not appropriate to engage in a dialogue with them. Even by stepping into a dialogue with [that] opinion, you are giving it a sense of platform and legitimacy.”

In the case of suppressed speech, both Occhipinti and Weiner warned of potentially dire consequences.

“When people can’t express their opinions, when they can’t express their ideas, that’s when a lot of conflict comes,” Occhipinti said. “It’s very limiting. That’s not the kind of campus that we should be, it’s very hypocritical.”

Oltersdorf was one of the students who was able to infiltrate the interior of the building Milo Yiannopoulos was planned to speak inside of and risk arrest in efforts to help shut down the event. Oltersdorf said they make a personal distinction between what reaction is appropriate in response to individuals informally making inflammatory comments and individuals who are given a platform to make such comments.

“In the case of Milo Yiannopoulos, I am actually of the opinion that the school shouldn’t have allowed him to speak, specifically because he had targeted students,” Oltersdorf said. “There were rumors of him giving out lists of undocumented students. You’re pretty much directly inciting violence against those individuals and putting them up for target. I think the school should have stepped in and I was really proud of our ability to shut him down.”

In the face of deciding how to respond to the presence of such pointed and upsetting speech on campus, first-year undeclared student Adriel Ramos said he believes the university should be doing more to ensure students make informed choices.

“We need people to tell the students […], ‘Let’s take action, but let’s do it in a proper way,’” Ramos said. “We need more knowledge, more education on this situation. A little more push from our faculty. Maybe UC Davis can have students volunteer [to hold] a discussion about it.”

Additionally, Weiner has been pushing for the establishment of more first-year seminars centered around contentious topics which he said would provide a place for students with different mindsets to openly discuss without fear of backlash.

“Making these kinds of talks part of the university curriculum is important,” Weiner said. “There is an opportunity for the faculty to talk to students […about] how is it that you engage with somebody who you feel is antithetical to who you are. You’re 18-22, you don’t even know yet what your political positions are […] so it’s foolish to react in such a strong, emotional way.

At UC Davis, a three-part discussion series open to students was held to discuss the legality of protected speech on campus. The title of the third installment in the series – “Hate Speech, Free Speech, More Speech or Less Speech: The Quad as Free Expression Zone or Safe Space?” – poses an important question.

“Free expression and safe spaces can definitely exist in tandem,” Oltersdorf said. “So many spaces that I’ve been a part of at university where people are trying to be mindful of larger, oppressive systems are full of disagreements […] and yet people find a way to express themselves [in a way] that’s not condemning someone for their existence. Ideally, a university should be a place where we strive to challenge each other but we’re real about the commitment to inclusiveness.”

Finding a place on campus: formerly incarcerated students seek support

Published: The California Aggie. Feb. 27, 2017. View here.


Students who received a questionnaire from third-year transfer student and sociology major Tina Curiel answered that if they were in a class with a formerly incarcerated student, they might feel that such a person should have to share their past with future colleagues. Curiel, who was present while students took the survey, could not reveal that she herself had been formerly incarcerated.

“There was definitely a proportion of the students we interviewed that […] didn’t know what somebody who has been incarcerated might look like,” Curiel said. “[That] is why I am really open about my past. It’s our job to challenge what that image looks like.”

Groups like Project Rebound, established in 1967 at San Francisco State University and now seven other CSUs, and the Underground Scholars Initiative (USI), founded at University of California (UC) Berkeley in 2012, primarily provide support, such as tutoring and networking, to formerly incarcerated students. UC Davis has no presently existing group to support formerly incarcerated students enrolled at the university.

Caleb Martinez, a fourth-year political science and policy major at UC Berkeley who is the Transfer and Outreach Lead Coordinator for USI and a formerly incarcerated student himself, said that USI has contacts with several formerly incarcerated students enrolled at UC Davis.

“All of us [at USI] have made it here through support [from] our community or, in many cases, being fortunate or privileged enough to have mentors,” Martinez said. “We feel like we provide resources and opportunities […] to people coming out of detention to help them [arrive] here at Berkeley or at other institutions.”

Both of Curiel’s parents had struggled with incarceration, addiction and poverty., and she herself struggled with heroin addiction and served differing amounts of time from age 18 to 23. After receiving a possession charge, she was able to enroll in a year-long, state-run program which, along with the fear of prolonged incarceration, was the turning point for her. After her release, having no financial support whatsoever, with the help of her sister and a 12-step program, Curiel was able to find a job and mentorship and began her higher education at Modesto Junior College (MJC).

“I worked full-time when I went to community college, so two years took me like seven years with two semesters off,” Curiel said. “Funding [is a] struggle […] more often than not for people that have served time. How do you prioritize school over survival?”

Two professors at MJC, including history Professor Eva Mo, encouraged Curiel to apply to the honors program. Mo was not aware of Curiel’s background but recognized her talents and later assisted in her applications to UC Davis and Berkeley.

“She had so much potential and she just needed the space to explore her abilities,” Mo said. “The more opportunities she had to demonstrate that she can very well succeed, and do it with amazing grace and eloquence, the more she became convinced of the idea that she deserved these things.”

In addition to mentors, the importance of education for both currently and formerly incarcerated people is promoted by both USI and Project Rebound. CSU Sacramento professor and Criminal Justice Division Chair Mary Maguire said that she believes education has the power to create system-wide change.

“The correctional system just isn’t really set up to help people get out and be successful,” Maguire said. “As a result, we have an incredibly high recidivism rate. I believe that education is going to make a difference in helping people get on their feet and be productive members of the community.”

Curiel plans on becoming a public defender. She said that she views education as a form of privilege which she can later use to help those who do not have access to education. Furthermore, Martinez said he thinks education is unnecessarily politicized.

“For USI, […] we feel that barriers have been placed [making it difficult for] us to receive education, in a way that it hasn’t been for other groups,” Martinez said. “Education is the equalizer, and it’s going to put our population on the platform to better advocate […] for issues of people that were incarcerated or are incarcerated.”

Education is at the heart of third-year transfer student and sociology major Daniel Mendoza’s story. Mendoza was incarcerated from ages 14 to 19 on charges of first degree murder with gang enhancements. Mendoza was allowed to take college courses while incarcerated, and was the first in the institution he was held at — as well as in his family — to do so. He had recently been sentenced to life as a juvenile, meaning he would remain incarcerated until the age of 23. At the time of sentencing, Mendoza was enrolled at Sierra College, a community college, to show the judge that he planned on continuing his education.

“Walking into that courtroom that day, [I thought] I was going to […] serve more time,” Mendoza said. “This community of people went up to the judge, wrote letters [and] were personally in the courtroom. The judge [decided to] release me with conditional terms. I got out in December, and started my first semester at Sierra College that January.”

Before his release, Mendoza spent his last four or five weeks incarcerated in solitary confinement with no human contact for 22 to 23 hours a day. His abrupt reintegration into society, and into community college, caused him to struggle.

“I had anxiety, […] I was always looking over my shoulder [and] sudden movements would freak me out,” Mendoza said. “I couldn’t find a job, […and] I had no previous work history. For the next couple months, for my first semester, I would go to school, excited, of course, for the opportunity, but come back […] and stay in my room all day.”

After getting involved with the Annie E. Casey foundation advocating for juvenile justice, Mendoza became more vocal about his past and the change he wanted to see. At his community college, Mendoza approached his counselor about starting a support group for formerly incarcerated students but was told that it was not the right place for such a group. Now, only in his second quarter at UC Davis, Mendoza said he has already met five or six formerly incarcerated student peers who have also not found a safe space on campus.

“I can walk into the Cross Cultural Center and they can accept me as much as they want, but there’s always that negative stigma behind my story,” Mendoza said. “My plan here, […] is create some kind of support system. I don’t see [anything] around here that says, ‘You were incarcerated? That’s okay.’”

Curiel and Mendoza are in the process of brainstorming how to go about creating a supportive group for formerly incarcerated students. Maguire, who was also the former Director for the CSU Sacramento’s Project Rebound program, strongly believes in the importance of support groups for formerly incarcerated students at universities.

“The students that have been incarcerated have spent months or years in a really anti-social environment […] where people assume [they are] essentially bad,” Maguire said. “These students need a different level of support to avoid that feeling of isolation.”

Formerly incarcerated students, whether enrolled at community college or four-year universities, continue to be defined by their past. Martinez, speaking in regards to USI and formerly incarcerated students, emphasized that support is still needed.

“It is still a stigma and still a barrier to be formerly incarcerated in society [and] on a campus,” Martinez said. “Many of us suffer from disabilities. We graduate from college and can’t find employment. Some of us are in college and can’t find employment. Many are food insecure [or] housing insecure. We always [need the] community support of everyone in any way they can.”

Satanic Temple offers “After School Satan” clubs for public schools

Published: Fresh U. August 5, 2016. Viewable here.


  Unlike in horror flicks such as Rosemary’s Baby – where worshippers of Satan kept their philosophy under wraps – “After School Satan” clubs might be coming to a public school near you, a piece of news which has caused quite a stir already.

  The Satanic Temple has recently contacted school districts across the nation in the hopes of establishing after school clubs.

  “Fundamentalist Christian organizations are trying to turn public schools into indoctrination camps for children,” The Satanic Temple published on their website. “With millions in funding and a team of aggressive lawyers, they have been successfully eroding the separation of Church and State. Your donation will allow us to expand our campaign to undermine their efforts and enable us to continue to advance campaigns that protect religious pluralism and defend personal sovereignty.”

  The organization released a promotional video for the “Educatin’ with Satan program” – which does look to be akin to something out of Rosemary’s Baby – and, if so inclined, donations to the efforts can be contributed here.

  Although the idea of a literal, publicly-accepted Satan club seems outlandish, public schools may have no choice but to agree.

  According to the Equal Access Act, it is “unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance … to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.”

  However unappealing the idea sounds, schools may be legally bound to allow the presence of such a club, much to the chagrin of some of those involved in school activities.

  According to the Washington Post, Jay Howard-Brock, the former PTA president of Bradbury Heights Elementary School, a school in one of the districts The Satanic Temple has reached out to, had quite a different reaction to the proposed “After School Satan” club as she had with the news that an Evangical “Good News Club” had been established at the school she volunteered at.

  “In the times that we live in now, and all that’s going on with our children, (a Good News Club) is a positive thing,” Brock told The Post. “(An ‘After School Satan’ club is) going to be a distraction. We should just abolish groups like that from being on school premises, because it just may offend someone. The kids really need to focus on the education piece.”

  By proposing seemingly extreme ideas like the creation of Satanic cubs, The Satanic Temple is attempting to destroy the double-standard that philosophical ideas of differing popularities be treated separately in matters regarding the blurring of lines in the church/state debate. When The Satanic Temple proposed a statue “Baphomet” be erected at the Oklahoma State Capitol – as a direct response to the Ten Commandments statue which was placed there in 2012 – they spoke of the broad message their actions were meant to imply.

  “Our feeling is, more religious display doesn’t solve the fundamental problem that the government is wading into the religious realm,” The Satanic Temple told Vice. “Allowing us to donate a monument would show that the Oklahoma City Council does not discriminate and both the religious and the non-religious should be happy with such an outcome. Our mission is to bring people together by finding common sentiments that create solutions that everyone can appreciate and enjoy.”

  If you find yourself worried over an “After School Satan” club, think about your response to a Christian-affiliated club in a public school – then ask yourself if either should be there in the first place.


10 States Join In New Lawsuit Over Transgender Bathroom Policy

Published: Fresh U. July 10, 2016. Viewable here

In early May, the Obama administration directed all public schools and universities that receive federal funding to allow transgender students use of the bathroom which correlates to the gender they identify as, or else face a loss of federal aid and funds.

  In May, North Carolina and the Justice Department sued each other after the state was threatened a loss of billions of dollars in federal funds over HB2. The law went directly against the federal government’s mandate and stated that students could only use the bathroom which correlates with their birth gender.

  The Justice Department stated that HB2 directly violated Title IX of the Civil Rights Act – which protects students from discrimination based on sex in education or programs which receive federal funds.

  Also in May, ten states announced a lawsuit over the Obama administration’s directive. These ten states were: Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Louisiana, Utah, Arizona and Georgia.

  Now, 9 states have joined Nebraska in a second lawsuit filed over the directive. These states are: Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.

  The total number of states challenging the directive have been brought to nearly half of the country, at 21 states.

  According to the Associated Press, the Nebraska lawsuit moves that the directive is overreaching, and that under the Civil Rights Act students are protected based on their sex, not their gender identity. The lawsuit says that nowhere in past legislation is the word gender identity found, and that “neither the text nor the legislative history of Title IX supports an interpretation of the term ‘sex’ as meaning anything other than one’s sex determined by anatomy and genetics.”

  In 2014, a document published by the Department of Education stated that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity.”

  Challenges to the directive are pending in four federal appellate courts, leaving open the possibility of one of these cases traveling to the Supreme Court. Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford law professor, told The Washington Post that there is a greater chance that the case could reach the Supreme Court if different courts come to conflicting decisions.

  “The fact that a particular issue is being litigated in several states across the country weighs in favor (of Supreme Court involvement),” Fisher told The Post.

News: Yes Means Yes bill passed

yes means yes

                                                                                                                                       Gazette photo illustration/Tamren Johnk and Colleen Vivaldi

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 3. Friday, Nov. 7, 2015.

Category: Law and Ethics/Leadership and Team Building

Reason for publication: At the time of this story’s publication, I was not yet involved in the E.A.V. club, a group which helps to inform the student body about consent and healthy relationships to prevent sexual assaults. However, I was still very interested in writing a piece for the Gazette to help spread awareness about consent and the Yes Means Yes standard – as opposed to the old No Means No standard, criticized for being too ambiguous. At the time, this bill’s Yes Means Yes standard only affected college curriculum. The next year, I would write a follow-up piece (seen here) detailing AB 329, which requires mandatory high school health classes to teach consent curriculum.


   California is saying “no” to sexual assault and “yes” to consent. Jerry Brown, California’s state governor, recently signed the ‘Yes Means Yes’ bill, which will go into effect for all colleges and universities that accept state financial aid.

   While the bill will not directly affect Granite Bay High School, it will affect seniors and future seniors soon to be leaving for college. And, while the bill addresses sexual assault on college campuses, sexual assault is still a prevalent issue in the Granite Bay community.

   Sexual assault has in fact been present in the lives of some GBHS students.

   “I was with a boy who wanted to hang out,” a recent GBHS graduate said. “We were driving around and had nothing to do (when) eventually he approached a park and pulled over.”

   The graduate said the park had no lights and the boy she was with insisted they hook up sexually.

   “I said no and wanted to go home, but next thing I knew he locked the doors and he grabbed me and told me to calm down. I kept saying that I didn’t want to do this but he proceeded to undress me,” the recent GBHS graduate said. “What I remember most is him constantly telling me to be quiet and calm down. Once I started being loud he put his pants back on and drove me home. He said that if I told anybody then he would tell the whole school I was just a slut who wanted it.”

   Acts of sexual assault in the Granite Bay community seem to most often occur, in some form, at parties that take place at private homes in the area on weekends.

   “At every party there is at least one instance where it happens to one girl or even a guy,” said junior Ally Rubino. “At least twice a party, maybe even more.”

   Junior Bailey Chairez-Nelson said she had seen at least three acts of sexual harassment or assault in the past year first-hand. Acts of sexual assault also tend to happen when alcohol is present and people are intoxicated.

   “Because there are a lot of parties in the Granite Bay area and I know a lot of people that don’t really control themselves when they’re drinking, so they tend to make stupid mistakes,” Chairez- Nelson said. “There are big consequences for that.”

   Although acts of sexual assault seem to be happening regularly in the community, it is not an issue regularly discussed throughout the hallways of GBHS.

   “We don’t really talk about sexual assault in our community because it’s kind of taboo, it’s kind of like we have that mentality of the victim is the perpetrator,” said senior Erin Caracristi and president of the STOP Sex Trafficking Of People club. “I know it’s very, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ here … because we don’t think that could happen inside the bubble.”

   This “bubble” complex of the Granite Bay community might be one of the reasons why acts of sexual assault aren’t common knowledge.

   “I think we talk about (sexual assault) pretty openly, but no one is really aware of it,” Chairez- Nelson said. “It really comes with the image of the school of like,‘We don’t do these kinds of things.’”

   While sexual assault isn’t talked about on a consistent basis, it is still a known issue that affects many GBHS students.

    “I think that there are girls at our school that have had stuff happen to them where they don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about it,” Rubino said. “I think that’s an issue because … girls and boys should feel more comfortable to (say), ‘This is what happened to me over the weekend, and it’s somebody at this school.’”

   Rubino said girls who have been assaulted might feel embarrassed or shy and choose not to speak up, thus falsely giving predators the misconception they can get away with anything they want.

   “I think girls need to speak up for themselves and (say), ‘I don’t want to be in this situation,’ ” Rubino said. “Girls should know when to say no, and guys should know when to stop.”

   The lack of discussion about sexual assault at GBHS can also cause misconceptions about such acts.

   “I think that most schools degrade how often it happens and they make it seem like you will only be assaulted if you’re alone in a dark alley,” the recent GBHS graduate said. “But the reality is that it can happen anytime, even with someone you trusted.”

   The topic of sexual assault is also not addressed regularly at GBHS for students.

   “I think we should raise awareness like yes does mean yes and if they say no, don’t do it, even if they’re intoxicated, don’t do that,” Caracristi said. “There’s this whole mentality like, ‘Oh he couldn’t control himself,’ and ‘Oh, she was wearing that dress,’ ‘Oh, she was drunk,’ ‘Oh she was flirting with him,’ like it’s always her fault, it’s never his fault. We need to … lay down the rules.”

   Educating students at a young age about sexual assault and safe and consensual sexual acts might have a direct influence on decreasing sexual assault.

   When educated, by the time students reach college they will be readily informed and most likely less susceptible to sexually assault. During the duration of their college careers, one out of five women will be the victim of a completed or attempted sexual assault, according to a 2007 study by the Department of Justice. The ‘Yes Means Yes’ bill is seeking to end sexual assaults on state funded college campuses.

   “I think that the ‘Yes means Yes’ bill will have an effect on college students,” the recent graduate said who was a victim when she was at GBHS. “I think that it will cause college students to take consent more seriously.”

News: Jerry Brown’s passing of assisted suicide and consent legislation

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Gazette photo/Jill Kurpershoek Gazette illustration/ Troy Pawlak


Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 3. Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

Category: Law and Ethics/Leadership and Team Building

Reason for publication: After California Governor Jerry Brown passed AB 329 and AB 15, I felt that the Gazette needed to do a story on both.  I am a member of the E.A.V. program/club (the Auburn Journal posted a quote from me about my involvement which you can see here ) which promotes consent on the GBHS campus and I jumped at the opportunity to inform students about consent. I conducted a school-wide poll (see below) to attain a general consensus of students’ current knowledge on consent. I decided that the two bills were too different to discuss them both in one story, and although they are treated as two separate articles, they are connected with the lead-in, which addresses both.



California Governor Jerry Brown has passed several significant pieces of legislation – including Assembly Bill 329, which makes Affirmative Consent curriculum mandatory on high school campuses, and Assembly Bill 15, which would give physicians the means to administer life-ending prescriptions to terminally ill patients as a right of  the patient to decide to end their life.

  Yes Means Yes requirement

  AB 329 requires that California high schools which require health classes must teach the Yes Means Yes standard, which would educate students about consent. Governor Brown also signed a bill making health classes in high schools mandatory – unless explicitly negated by a student’s parent or guardian.

  ‘Yes Means Yes’ and Affirmative Consent are synonymous policies – both necessitating an audible or physical (i.e. a nod), enthusiastic and clearly-stated signal of approval to engage in a sexual act. Both policies recognize acts of intimacy as consensual only when both parties engaged agree to the act at every stage.

  “It’s so important to start teaching young people about consent at an early age so they can practice (using it) throughout their life,” said junior Julia Huss. “I think everyone has an idea about what consent is, but maybe not everything (about it). I know some people who are all for consent, but (who) didn’t know that you can’t consent while intoxicated or say no to sex after you have already had it.”

  The Yes Means Yes standard replaces the old No Means No standard– implying that a sexual act was not consensual if the person says no –which had been criticized for ambiguity. Seniors Mark Zagaynov and Isabella Li favor the Yes Means Yes standard because they said it increases clarity and makes the policy more positive.

  “A lack of a no doesn’t mean a yes,” Li said. “That’s so important. Even now, police will be misinformed when they ask ‘did you say no?’ It can still definitely be considered rape if the no wasn’t actually said. You can feel so pressured as a victim that you’re too scared to say no – but that doesn’t mean yes at all.”

  Granite Bay High School does mandate that all students take a health class – usually in the form of Health and Safety their freshmen year – so GBHS will not be affected by the aforementioned passed legislation requiring those types of courses. Furthermore, Health and Safety teacher Kathie Sinor said that she doesn’t think the passing of AB 329 will have a significant effect on the curriculum already in place, as the importance of consent is taught about already.

  “For ourselves, how we teach and what we teach isn’t really going to be any different,” Sinor said. “We do go over … the consequences (after becoming) sexually active. That decision is very personal, but it has to be your decision – not the decision of someone else. We also focus a lot on circumstances that make it difficult for you to say yes. If a (person) is drunk, that’s not the time to have sex with (them) because (they) can’t say yes. It’s the alcohol that’s saying yes. We really look at the realities of (sex), but then if it is consensual … it needs to be communicated between the two of you. You don’t want to be saying yes in the spur of the moment. You want to make sure the decision is right for yourself, but it’s something that’s a very mature action and has huge potential consequences that the two of you need to openly discuss for there to be enjoyment in the sexual relationship. We’re also looking at (the fact that) these are freshmen, and (the) type of situations (they) are most likely to be in where they are having sex – and many times they’re pressured to have sex, but it does need to be clear from both parties that it’s something that they want.”

  The majority of GBHS freshmen have not yet been taught about consent this semester, as they have not reached that point in their curriculum. Be that as it may, a survey administered by the Gazette, given to 10 percent of each grade, given voluntarily and taken from students anonymously, asked if consent had been granted in ten separate, hypothetical scenarios.

 The survey showed that about 92 percent of freshmen, 80 percent of sophomores, 91 percent of juniors and 77 percent of seniors answered no, consent had not been granted, if one person said yes while drunk. If one party was unconscious, 99 percent of freshmen, 88 percent of sophomores, 100 percent of juniors and 100 percent of seniors said consent was not granted.

 If one party was the other’s significant other (i.e. girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse), 16 percent of freshmen, 20 percent of sophomores, 10 percent of juniors and 12 percent of seniors said consent had been given. Consent had also been given if one party has engaged in a sexual act with the other party before, as according to 16 percent of freshmen, 17 percent of sophomores, 10 percent of juniors and 12 percent of seniors.

 If provocative clothing was being worn by one person involved, 15 percent of freshmen, 12 percent of sophomores, 3 percent of juniors and 5 percent of seniors said consent had been granted. If one party began to remove clothing, 35 percent of freshmen, 25 percent of sophomores, 27 percent of juniors and 25 percent of seniors said consent was granted.

  Most seniors, juniors and sophomores have completed the Health and Safety requirement and have been taught about consent. But the survey results still show a significant amount of uninformed students unsure when clear consent had been given.

  Junior Selena De La Torre said she doesn’t remember learning about consent, and began to learn about the topic through posters advocating for consent on campus, through social media and through stories published in the Gazette.

  “I feel like students do need to know what consent means, and, to a certain point, when it’s okay to do that stuff and when it’s maybe not okay to do that stuff,” De La Torre said. “I think it’s really good we’re going to be talking about (consent), because I feel like not everyone has the same definition or point of view (on consent).”

  The posters that De La Torre is referring to were made by the Empowered Against Violence (E.A.V.) club to promote the usage of consent. Last year, E.A.V. was a grant-funded program on the GBHS campus which met once a week and taught participants about sexual assaults, how to prevent them and resources which could be of service to survivors of assault/abusive relationships.

  A representative from Stand Up Placer – a Placer County organization that provides support, resources and services to survivors of sexual assault – taught a lesson each week, but this year, E.A.V. is a school club. Huss, the previously mentioned junior, is also the E.A.V. club president, and said that the club is a safe place for survivors to talk or ask for resources.

  If a student has been assaulted or knows someone who has been assaulted, they can also talk to a trusted adult or teacher on the GBHS campus, but should know that because teachers are mandatory reporters, the situation becomes a legal issue. Teachers are mandated to report situations of abuse – for example, if a student is being sexually or physically abused or caused harm to themselves or other.

  “Help is kind of weird on all campuses because there’s a lot of mandated reporters,” Li said. “So if you’re not sure if you want to get the police involved, which is a completely reasonable (feeling), be wary of mandated reporters, because they will have to report it and it will become a legal issue. Just talking about it to a safe, nonbias source is really helpful. When you put it into words (it might help you see) this wasn’t (your) fault. A lot of people don’t know about Stand Up Placer – talk to them, they’re very nice and they’re there to listen and they’re not mandated. There’s a lot of resources that they offer and even just if you’re calling for a friend – like (if) you don’t know what to do – that’s a good help line and they’ll give you advice and listen to you.”

 In response to a portion of students stating that consent had been granted if one party was the others’ significant other, De La Torre said asking is important for couples because “it’s not something you automatically get to do” and should not be assumed – even if involved in a romantic relationship with the person,

  “Your significant other doesn’t belong to you,” senior Nathan Dell’Orto said. “You don’t have the right to do with them what you choose. Just because they’re your significant other doesn’t mean that it’s an implied yes. If they say no – no means no. So unless they give you a yes, there is no consent.”

    In a survey given by the the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation to college students currently attending school and those who have recently graduated, only 29 percent of students said they believe that mandating sexual assault prevention programs is an effective way to decrease sexual assaults.       

  However, education on the subject of healthy relationships and consent in general is seen as an effective way to reduce sexual assaults. This ideology was stated by Li and Huss, with Joy and Sinor stating education is effective if done correctly.

  “I think it’s weird that consent is a touchy issue, when it’s just a clear, simple question,” Li said. “It implies a lot of other things, but we talk about sex so often and consent is never tied together – (so) why aren’t we having this discussion? Part of having safe sex is asking the partner if they want it – otherwise it’s not sex.”

Euthanasia Controversy

  AB 15 legalizes assisted suicide in California for those patients who are terminally-ill, mentally healthy and have six months or less left to live. After passing the legislation, California became one of five states to allow doctors to administer fatal drugs to patients with little time left.

  The bill requires two doctors to sign off on their approval stating the patient has six months or less to live, that the patient request life-ending drugs on multiple occasions (in a written format), that the life-ending prescriptions must be taken by the patient themself and that the death be witnessed by two observers.

  One interesting aspect having to do with the passing of the bill is the reality that it defies the core of the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics. Senior Mark Zagaynov said he thinks the bill will be controversial mainly because of its failure to respect the Hippocratic Oath, which states that doctors will treat all patients to the best of their abilities – doctors who administer life-ending drugs would be the most defiant of all scenarios rebelling against the Oath.

  Over the centuries, the Hippocratic Oath has been whittled down, and is most well-known by its most memorable and quoted phrase: “do no harm.” But what about the circumstances in which, by prescribing life-ending drugs, physicians permanently alleviate the pain of someone suffering intensely? Granite Bay students discussed differing opinions on the topic.

  “Recently, I went up to visit my grandmother who just fell and broke her hip and her femur, and she’s not been doing well lately, so I was thinking, … if she wants to hold on for as long as she can – by all means (go ahead) – but I wouldn’t want her to just have to sit there and waste away to nothing, even if she wanted to end her own life,” senior Nath Dell’Orto said, who is in support of the bill passing. “It’s all about the person’s comfort. I think the way they went about setting up the bill is very good as far as assisted suicide, because the people that I’ve heard critique it make it sound like it’s going to make it way too easy for people to take their own lives, but you need approval from multiple doctors, from what I’ve heard, who say ‘yes, this person has no chance of surviving, they’ve made the choice to end their own life.’

  The choice and the power to end one’s own life is what most find complicated and complex when deciding whether or not they support the bill. Senior Ryan Joy, who said he is neutral on his stance on the passing of the bill, said he thinks the decision to end a life should be up to the entire family – as that is who will be left to live with the consequences of the decision.

  Joy, who, like Dell’Orto, has personal situations that have influenced his stance, said his view on assisted suicide – that it is “not as humane as it seems” – is influenced by his mom’s friend who, once exceedingly healthy and fit, is now dealing with heart problems and bone cancer.

  “She’s a forty-year-old mom of (a little girl, and) the chances of her coming out of this and living a decent life (are) not very good,” Joy said. “If her condition were to progress in the wrong way, or some surgery were to go wrong, she would be dying not having given up. The whole thing with cancer is you fight until the very end. That’s what a lot of people pride themselves on. Medicine isn’t completely, 100 percent (correct). You never know what’s going to happen in a human’s body.

  One area of controversy surrounding the bill is that suicide in general is controversial in many religions. Zagaynov, who said his views on the issue are neutral, said that his neutral stance has been influenced by his religion.

  “I think suicide isn’t the right choice in many circumstances,” Zagaynov said. “But in the circumstances that the assisted suicide would be administered (under), it’s a little more grey. These are patients that would die otherwise. It’s patients that have six or less months to live, they have a terminal disease and their death would be pretty painful and horrible otherwise, so I think that’s why I’m not really sure where I stand. Because it’s such a grey area. In other cases, it’s black and white – suicide is never the good … way out. There’s always another choice that you can make.”

  One religion in particular – Catholicism – believes suicide is a sin because life is a gift from God and to defy God is a sin, as according to the Catholic Education Resource Center. Furthermore, Catholic Answers reports that a Catholic who repents before suicide will not go to hell, because God may give them a final opportunity for repentance.

  However, the Catholic Church has come out in opposition of the passing of the bill because they feel that it would allow patients to commit suicide who are not yet terminal and might place pressure on terminally-ill patients to end their own lives.

  Carmela Flores, a Catholic senior at GBHS, said she is neutral on the topic, but does concur with the Catholic Church’s stance.

  “I do agree with the Catholic Church that it is immoral to go forth with assisted death,” Flores said. “I personally believe that it is in God’s will to determine (to) take an individual’s life, and that it is not in the position of someone else to do so.  I feel that people should value one another and comfort/support those who are terminally ill up until their death. (However), I also do respect and accept if the patient chooses euthanasia because they don’t want to keep living life in agony. I also think that they are choosing what is best for them and that they want to die with peace and dignity.”

  Senior Reed Homen, who isn’t Catholic himself, said he is influenced by the Catholic ideology because half of his family is Catholic. Homen said he doesn’t believe people should help others hurt themselves, but his views are conflicted in the case of Brittany Maynard – perhaps one of the most well-known cases of assisted suicide – and in her case, the choice to die peacefully was acceptable.

  Maynard, a 29 year old who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, chose to end her life this time last year. A California native, she chose to move with her family to Oregon –  a state where assisted suicide had been legalized.

  Maynard chose to die peacefully, with the assistance of life-ending drugs, by the side of her family, instead of naturally – where she would have most likely suffered from seizures and extreme pain, perhaps lack of vision or speech, and eventually become paralyzed and die.

  Before her death, Maynard recorded videos of herself speaking in support of California passing AB 15. The Brittany Maynard fund is still working to make ‘death with dignity’ available for all, nationally.

 While Joy feels that the topic is still a complicated one, he said he does feel that conversations regarding assisted suicide are constructive and productive.

  “I think Governor Brown’s stance (on the legislation) will provide more of a dialogue,” Joy said. “Historically, California’s regulations and new laws have really started a national dialogue. There (are) states that are completely against assisted suicide, … so it is a positive dialogue. It is state by state. Alabama will probably never pass this for years, because their religious standing is that they want to have the loved one there for as long as they want, and they want God to take them instead of a doctor. So standpoints like that, that are heavily religious (are helped by) talking about it. It’s better than being complacent in it.”


If you or someone you know is being or has been sexually assaulted, email to talk with a member of E.A.V., or call Stand Up Placer’s crisis line (1-800-575-5352) to speak with a trained member for help or for resources.