The history of advocacy at UC Davis

Published: The California Aggie. February 2, 2017.


 

At the Memorial Union, the eyes of important global and local activists gaze upon passersby to remind them that UC Davis students of both past and present have felt compelled to advocate for change. “The Unfinished Dream,” a mural at the MU which depicts multicultural art pieces like Greek and Egyptian busts alongside portraits of activists such as Harriet Tubman, was commissioned in 1991 to celebrate diversity and acknowledge the importance of activism.

“We wanted [to convey] that things were not perfect, that one always has to keep agitating and going forward,” said Kim Anno, an artist who co-created the mural. “This idea of a utopian society, where all people sit around a table, is not yet achieved. We wanted to make something that was triumphant.”

UC Davis’ history is deeply characterized by student-led movements. A 1969 protest which confronted then Chancellor James Meyer in regards to the excessive use of police force at People’s Park was attended by his own children. The 1969 March for Peace at Sacramento, organized by UC Davis, was attended by 6,000 to 8,000 people. In 1970, the Rally on the Quad for Vietnam involved the planting of 500 white crosses, symbolizing war deaths, which were subsequently uprooted and carried to then Chancellor Meyer to demand that the university cut ties with the war effort. After the Kent State shootings and the deployment of US troops in Cambodia, two molotov cocktails were thrown at the UC Davis Reserve Officers’ Training Corps building.

Student gathered in the ‘80s and ‘90s to protest against Apartheid in South Africa, the first war in Iraq, sexism and racism and in support of Affirmative Action. In 1989, students protested the presence of Robert Bork, the rejected Supreme Court Justice nominee who opposed federal anti-segregation laws, who came for a university-funded campus event.

“What the demonstration [showed] to the university leadership and the greater community was that people were not going to be silent and let their rights be squashed to protect the rights of others,” said class of ‘93 graduate William Schlitz, who was involved in the protest. “Just because you have your rights and I have my rights doesn’t mean asking for my rights infringes on your rights. I tell people, ‘What the nation is experiencing now, California went through in the ‘80s and ‘90s.’”

Four students in 1990 began a water-only Hunger Strike which lasted six days and called for an investigation into alleged racism in the Spanish Department against native Spanish speakers, the establishment of an on-campus ethnic and cultural center and the increase of full-time ethnic studies faculty members. Andrea Gaytan, one of the four hunger-strikers and now the director of the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, said that the effect of the strike was greater than the granting of the three demands.

“The whole gist of the protest […] was really the mobilization and awakening of the community,” Gaytan said. “Afterwards, […] we had a humongous coalition for the anti-war movement. When we had the anti-fee hike protest, students and the campus community mobilized faster. We had members of the community and staff and faculty […who] became more widely-known as advocates and allies for students.”

Shortly after the Hunger Strike, the Office of Student Affairs and the Campus Art in Public Places Work Group decided to commission a piece of art that would both celebrate achievements and inspire further advocacy. This piece became “The Unfinished Dream.”

“The demand and the desire to have a mural was part of showing an unfinished dream [for] real equity and international respect and collaboration,” said Miranda Bergman, who co-created the mural alongside Anno. “[The mural] was combatting Eurocentrism in education and also remembering and honoring both students from the school and people throughout history who took that step to stand up for equality.”

Today, Gaytan said she sees a large difference in modern UC Davis student activism versus the activism of 1988 to ‘92, when she was a student. The AB540 and Undocumented Student center she directs is the result of student advocacy.

“Watching the students originally organize and […] write a plan and proposal for this AB540 Center was so different from what my experience had been,” Gaytan said. “It’s been really full-circle. Davis has made a lot of progress, just for Davis, but we’ve made even more progress compared to other universities in California and across the country. I feel extremely proud of what we’re doing now.”

More recent movements include the Occupy UC Davis movement over tuition hikes, during which students were pepper-sprayed by police. Evan Loker, a 2012 graduate who was involved in the Occupy movement, said that this event resulted in a mobilization similar to what Gaytan described after the 1990 Hunger Strike.

“What made Occupy unique from other cycles of political resistance was that it localized these new connections and energies into a particular territory – traditional political actions like marches and pickets taking place alongside micro-political processes […like] building relationships alongside ideologies and strategies,” Loker said. “The UC movement and Occupy shared a set of political concerns, symbols and tactics [which] created a set of common experiences and images that offered many millennials and older folks an entrance into radical politics.”

Just last year, the Fire Katehi movement resulted in the resignation of former Chancellor Linda Katehi. Even more recently, student protests manifested in regards to the highly controversial scheduled appearance of alt-right Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who came accompanied by entrepreneur Martin Shkreli via invitation from the Davis College Republicans (DCR).

“We decided to host Milo in order to allow our fellow students the opportunity to hear about ideas, policies and theories that may be entirely alien to their background,” said Deborah Porter, a fourth-year biological systems engineering major and political director for DCR. “We had hoped that liberals alongside conservatives would attend Milo’s talk with the purpose of pondering his ideas, asking difficult questions and promoting UC Davis as a place where we challenge the ideas set before us rather than blindly accepting them.”

2016 graduate Eric Gudz, who provided support and assistance to protesters who led to the cancellation of the event, said he is opposed to the presence of “hatred and bigotry” and campus.

[Not] having the platform for that speech is not the same as losing your right to be able to conduct free speech,” Gudz said. “[I] wanted to show my support and solidarity to resisting and voicing my concerns over what I see [is the] proliferation of hateful and fearful rhetoric that is becoming more […] normalized in our communities. This provides other communities an example of how [they] can be powerful enough to really counter the spread of hate that’s happening and demonstrate that everybody has that ability to be able to […] stand up for what they believe in and what they know is right […] for the community.”

One day after the cancelled speech, Yiannopoulos and Shkreli returned to campus for a free-speech countermarch, during which the 2011 pepper-spraying incident was reenacted using silly string. The “Shkrelopoulos” event is reminiscent of past UC Davis histories, given that it directly referenced recent student movements and was extremely similar in character to speaker-related protests like the 1989 Robert Bork controversy. According to Porter and the DCR, the re-enactment “especially reiterated” their rights.

“Just as the Occupy protesters had a right to be there, so did we. It doesn’t matter the material they discuss, they have a right to peacefully do it,” Porter said.

According to the UC Davis Policy and Procedure Manual, anybody may exercise first amendment rights, including free speech, on all public university grounds. Symbolic structures are permitted at a designated site on the quad meant for “symbolic speech,” but all acts of civil disobedience are not condoned. Though the manual acknowledges that civil disobedience has played a historic role at UC Davis, it is not Constitutionally protected.

For those looking to get involved in the future of activism on campus, Gudz said he recommends that students join established groups and organizations first before launching their own movement.

“Organizing in this era is going to be critical to move things forward,” Gudz said. “A good first place to start is to check in with those pre-existing activism groups. One of the big keys for activism [and] advocacy going forward is that these struggles are intersectional whether we want to realize them or not. The struggles of all these different groups are […] intertwined and they must be treated as such to be able to advance the causes forwards.”

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Young boy’s wish to be a garbage man came true

Published: Fresh U. July 29, 2016. Viewable here.


 

  Hundreds of people recently gathered together for a worthy cause outside, on a week-day, in 105 degree heat purely out of the kindness of their hearts – an event heartening and reassuring in itself. But, even more so, is the focus of this event – a 6-year-old boy whose story has spread nationally and whose humble spirit inspired a city.

  On Sunday morning my mom showed me an ad in The Sacramento Bee for an event centered around granting the wish of a sick child. She had already made up her mind we were going after learning the story of Ethan Dean.

  18 days after his birth, Ethan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis – an incurable and inherited disease which damages the lungs and causes breathing complications. Every morning Ethan begins his day by breathing through a nebulizer – a machine which creates mist – for 20 minutes before putting on a vibrating vest for another 20 minutes that helps to loosen mucus in his lungs.

  Ethan had his humble wish of being a garbage man come true thanks to the efforts of The Make A Wish foundation and with the help of the Sacramento city who learned about the event via radio stations and the aforementioned ad in The Bee which listed Ethan’s garbage pick-up route. Kept entirely secret from Ethan, his wish was made a reality on Tuesday, July 26 as he road around in a Waste Management truck escorted around the city by police, stopping to actually pick up garbage and recyclables.

  On Tuesday morning, Ethan was surprised at his elementary school with the event, running through a tunnel of his classmates and a celebratory banner before being presented with an actual garbage truck labeled “Ethan’s Garbage Truck Est. 2016.”

  Although the wish might seem simple, Ethan’s parents said they knew his wish would be garbage-man-themed and that he has always been infatuated with everything garbage truck and garbage man – playing with toys, watching the clean-up happen, etc.

 My mom works in Sacramento, and just after 10:00 a.m. she and I, along with her many co-workers, walked to a spot along Ethan’s route in between his pick-up stops. On Twitter, photos posted under #EthanCleansUp showed huge groups with balloons and signs waiting at each stop – because we did not gather at one of the designated stops, there were only few other supporters lined down this particular street of his route.

  A while after arriving and expectantly anticipating Ethan’s drive down the street in the garbage truck, a Make A Wish volunteer pulled to the side of the road to profusely thank us for our presence and asked us to wait just minutes more for Ethan to roll down the street. And suddenly flashing lights from the large police escort group in front of his garbage truck indicated his arrival – Ethan, wearing sunglasses, looked at our small group, cheering as wildly as we could, and smiled.

  Later in the day, at a few minutes before noon, my mom and I headed to the Sacramento Capitol, Ethan’s final stop on his route. Some news publications estimate that over 500 people gathered at the capitol, awaiting Ethan, in heat creeping towards 110 degrees.

  The police sirens sounded and the crowd, bursting with pride and sheer happiness, cheered madly. A green carpet, which was rolled out from the passenger door where Ethan got out to the side of a stage set up in front of the capitol building was thickly lined with supporters and a plethora of creative signs (my own was my mother’s creation, a print-out of Oscar the Grouch in a garbage can thanking Ethan).

  Ethan was propped up on his father’s shoulders and smiled as he was escorted through the crowd.

  “And to you, and to your mom and dad, and your family and to all the good people who helped put this together – but especially you – thank you for making us feel so good,” Sacramento Mayor-Elect Darrell Steinberg said to Ethan. “You’re a Sacramento hero.”

  And Ethan, at the end of his day, said “It’s been the best day ever.”

A UC Berkeley student is youngest California RNC delegate

Published: Fresh U. July 24, 2016. Viewable here.


 

   At just 22, Claire Chiara, a political science and economics double major at UC Berkeley is experiencing politics first-hand, although perhaps in a positions many of her more liberal peers would frown upon – she is a delegate for the Republican National Convention and a proud supporter of Donald Trump.

  Chiara is the youngest California delegate for the RNC.

  Although she fully supports the RNC’s presidential nominee, her beliefs differ somewhat from her party’s own platform. Chiara is pro-choice and pro same-sex marriage.

  According to the LA Times, she started her high school’s Republican organization and is involved with several Republican groups at Berkeley, including one that supports LGBT+ rights. She is also president of the Berkeley College Republicans.

  Though Chiara says supporting Trump is “a little tougher than just being a Republican,” her reasoning is clear and definite.

  “He’s a businessman who cares about performance and results,” Chiara told Berkeley News. “He has a track record of hiring women. There’s an old quote of his about… hiring anyone who can get the job done.”

  The process of becoming a delegate is complex and unlikely. However, one recommendation for Chiara came from the vice chair of the California Republican Party, Harmeet Dhillon, who said she was “extremely professional and hardworking.”

  In addition to her selection as a Republican delegate from her congressional district, Chiara is also running for office. When she discovered that Tony Thurmond, a Democratic incumbent currently representing her district – District 15, which includes Berkeley – was running unopposed, she decided to drop her name in the hat.

  Though a win is not anticipated, Chiara said Thurmond’s lack of opposition was “undemocratic and un-American,” and decided to run in an effort to expose voters to differing stances and positions.

   “Even if I don’t win the election, I truly hope to start a conversation and remind each and every constituent of Assembly District 15 that they can ask questions,” Chiara told The Daily Californian. “They can decide whether they are being truly represented.”

  Chiara has received criticism from her peers and online because of her status as a Berkeley student supporting Trump and the RNC, but she has affirmed her decision and stands strong in her beliefs.

  “For me, being a Republican as a young person, as a woman, as a Californian, it all is very natural and feels appropriate,” Chiara told California Magazine. “I’m not questioning that identity at all, despite other people wanting me to.”

 

Bathroom policies and their effects on the rise of social media social justice

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 8. Friday, May 20, 2016. Can also be read here.


 

  The heated, national controversy spurred over the creation of public bathroom policies in relation to who, depending on how gender is determined,  may use either male or female bathrooms, has been intensified by impassioned arguments from groups on either side of the issue.

  Although there are more inclusive facility alternatives, such as family or non-gendered bathrooms, often public places such as schools offer only female or male bathroom choices. In determining gender lays the controversy: North Carolina’s House Bill 2 upheld the definition of biological sex, that “stated on a person’s birth certificate” to determine gender; whereas Target, after announcing a new national bathroom policy at its stores, has declared that employees and customers alike are free to use the restroom which corresponds with their gender identity.

  “I believe policies protecting the rights of transgender individuals are important to ensuring their safety – even in the restroom,” said senior and Granite Bay High School Gender-Sex-Alliance club president Marty Kantola, who is a transgender male. “The point is, there shouldn’t be a debate about this.”

  North Carolina’s House Bill 2 was found to be discriminating against transgender individuals, and thus in violation of Title IX, which ensures the absence of gender discrimination in federally-funded education programs or activities. The Department of Justice told the state’s government officials to immediately stop enforcing the legislation, or risk losing billions of dollars in funding for North Carolina’s education programs.

  Now it seems North Carolina and the Department of Justice are embattled in a mainly philosophical dispute. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory filed a lawsuit at the end of the allotted time period given by the Department of Justice to eradicate HB2. The Department of Justice has filed its own lawsuit, citing the law’s discriminatory policies.

  Target, however, was met with public backlash for their implementation of a more progressive bathroom policy. At this time, almost 1,200,000 people have signed the American Family Association’s petition to boycott Target stores, claiming it “endangers women and children by allowing men to frequent women’s facilities.”

   “I think the main reason people are against open bathroom policies is (because) they’re afraid of people who may take advantage of the policy to sexually assault someone,” said junior Reagan Tran. “But the thing is, if someone has intent to sexually assault anybody they obviously don’t care about the law and will find a way and a place. Open restroom policies don’t promote sexual assault – they merely allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they most comfortably identify.”

    In California, after the passing of AB 1266, transgender students who attend public school in grades K-12 may use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender they identify with, as well as play for a gendered sports team according to the same criteria.

  Jessup McGregor, a GBHS assistant principal, said the administrative staff is looking at all parties involved to be as inclusive as possible before implementing a uniform bathroom policy.

   “We are trying to move slowly because it’s charged, and I think whatever … we do, we get (complaints) from somebody,” McGregor said. “Our goal then is to … make sure we’re in compliance with what we need to do. So we work with our lawyers and have meetings about this kind of thing to make sure that we’re complying, which is good, but that’s really not the big thing. The big thing is how do we accommodate to people’s needs? How do we then (provide) service to every student on our campus?

  “You have folks who are in various stages of transition also, emotionally, physically and mentally. Each one we take as a single case basis. We have not outlined a specific (protocol), like Target has, for example. We also have to balance out with the needs, wishes and desires of everybody on campus too. So it’s hard to come up with a blanket policy just yet, so we’re going slow. We’re taking each student individually and trying to (ensure) they have a hospitable environment to go to school in and get their education in.”

  Marty Kantola pointed out that he has the right to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender identity because he resides in California, but would still feel more comfortable in a gender neutral bathroom.

  “When it comes to Granite Bay (High School), I know that I’d be physically safe using the restroom I feel comfortable in,” Kantola said. “Personally, I’d rather use a gender neutral bathroom. For example, Del Oro actually has a two stall, gender neutral bathroom on campus, which is awesome. As for using restrooms on campus, I actually avoid using the GBHS bathrooms at all cost, because when I go in either bathroom, I’m always afraid that someone will tell me I’m in the wrong place, when all I need to do is pee.”

  Madison Shroyer, a Del Oro High School junior who transferred after attending GBHS, verified the existence of gender neutral bathrooms in the middle of campus which are open to anyone. Shroyer said she thinks it might be easier for students who are either transgender or struggling with their gender identity to use gender free bathrooms.

  GBHS, however, has no gender neutral bathrooms.

  “I think, across the education (system) in general, there’s going to be some shifting around, in terms of how we build our schools,” McGregor said. “But we have what we have right now and we have to adapt our facilities to (fit) the needs of our students.”

  In regards to improving the comfortability of students using the facilities provided at GBHS, McGregor and Kantola both said neither the GSA or administrative staff have attempted to talk to one another about the bathroom policy at GBHS.

  McGregor said that the district works with each student on a case by case basis to come up with an individual plan the student feels comfortable with.

    “(We) have a vested interest in providing students with the best services possible, regardless of what they’re coming to us with,” McGregor said. “So we would absolutely be open to having a conversation, having even forums, potentially, to make sure that everybody feels like they have a voice and has access to the decision-making process. All students have an interest in their privacy and their ability to access facilities so we’re open to hearing from everybody, certainly.

  “I think we’re all anxious to make sure that we get it right, and concerned about the implications if we get it wrong, either out of innocence or ignorance or otherwise. We all want to do the right thing by people, but it’s really hard because … a lot of people have a lot of very charged opinions. I hope that our student body has patience with us as we go through this and try to get it right.”

  Nationwide, however, schools, companies and even states are struggling to find an inclusive policy which works for everyone. The difficulty lies in meeting everyone’s needs, and when bathroom policies fall short of expectations or personal desires, the American public is using the internet as an outlet to vent their concerns.

   In regards to both Target’s newest company policy and North Carolina’s legislation, individuals took to social media or other online platforms to petition or support the policy. The AFA’s online petition is one example of mass online protest.

  The future of grassroots social movements – movements started by the public – might be more concentrated online.

  “I  think it is just in keeping with everything else in society, no one writes letters of any kind anymore – it is easy to post something to Twitter and reach tons and tons of people, so naturally people are doing that,” said Sacramento State University Government Professor David Barker, who has expertise in media and politics. “Traditional forms of protest take a lot more effort (and) organizing, and naturally most people don’t have time for that.

  “I don’t think that people don’t protest … in traditional ways. I think they (do). But again, you can’t do it that quickly because someone has to organize it. It is easy and fast to get a bunch of signatures via social media, and we have now gotten to a point when a big majority of the population is on Facebook and a substantial percentage is on Twitter.”

  Undoubtedly, the online presence of teens is particularly high – according to a study published in 2015 by the Pew Research Center, approximately 92 percent of teens surveyed said they engage in daily activities online. Teens may or may not choose to become politically active online, but if they do, is social media social justice effective?

  “I think both forms – traditional and modern – … will continue to be important,” Barker said. “Social media may be easy and it may be impactful, but it is nothing like a march. People still need to take to the streets in large numbers to really get noticed. It is bang for your energy buck: you get a lot of bang for not much effort. That is why you are seeing it used so much now.”

 However, Tran, who said she promotes her own political ideologies on her personal social media accounts “pretty often,” said she thinks social media is an effective way to make change.

  “I think social media has a larger outreach than any other form of protest does – it raises awareness in a way that is totally unique and accessible to people everywhere around the world,” Tran said. “I’d dare to say that social media is more effective than traditional organized protests or letters. Discussions about topics pop up everywhere and allow so many people to see it and really promote more people to talk about topics, especially when things get trending and hashtags get started.

  “Organized protests, even when televised, only reach so many people locally. The internet and social media are constantly checked by people, and when topics start to trend they do end up on television and other news sources. Social media really has the biggest reach of any other type of protest or discussion about a topic.”

Religious organization’s presence on GBHS campus sparks discussion

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 6. Friday, March 4, 2016. Can also be read here.

Note: This story was co-written alongside Caroline Palmer and Olivia Heppell


 

  Dating back to 1802, the idea of a separation of church and state can be contributed to Thomas Jefferson, who wrote about it in a centuries-old letter to a group associated with another, different religious group. Although this separation is not guaranteed in the Constitution, it is a guaranteed assurance which took root in a clause issued by the Supreme Court after their ruling in Everson v. Board of Education.

  It may be confusing for students then, specifically those at Granite Bay High School, to distinguish why Campus Life, a non-denominational national faith-affiliated organization which is in over one thousand schools, is given access to a public high school campus. Whether seen at lunch on Thursdays sitting at a bannered Campus Life table or intentionally invited by the school district to talk to struggling students, Campus Life has a long history of appearing on the GBHS campus, but in more cases and for more reasons than might be initially thought.

  “In my time at Granite Bay (High School), we chaperoned the dances, the freshmen class – even to this year – builds their float at my house and when bad things happen, the school calls us,” said Rob Maxey, Campus Life’s Executive Director of Youth for Christ Ministries in Sacramento. “The principal … will call and say ‘Hey, we’ve got some kids that are in trouble, could you help? (Or) we have a kid that has attempted suicide, … would you reach out to the family and connect with them? (Or) … we have a kid that has committed suicide, would you consider doing the candle light vigil?’ So we’ve really been intricately engaged with Granite Bay for the last 20 years.”

  Although many students were under the misconception that Campus Life is affiliated with Bayside, the organization is not related to any one church. Young Life, another Christian-affiliated youth organization has similar goals and similar means in which they accomplish these goals, but is a separate entity from Campus Life.

  In regards to the significance of religion in the organization, according to Maxey, the faith component is always optional. In general, Campus Life focuses on character, confidence, responsibility and, as an optional component, faith.  

  Overall, a large aspect of Campus Life’s goal as a national organization is community outreach and betterment.

  “(For) a lot of the underserved kids at (local) schools, we figure out how to pay their life bills,” Maxey said. “We help coach the basketball team at Adelante and buy the kids’ shoes because people can’t afford them. We’re faith-based, (but) we’re not footing bibles in people’s shoes when we give them. When a kid gets suspended or expelled from Granite Bay and they go to the district office, I go as an advocate and sit in on the expulsion hearings, …we’re just trying to (help) local kids that have practical needs. We have that kind of advocacy for kids that don’t have advocates. I’m not just a random guy who showed up one day and said ‘Hey, let’s hang out with kids.’”

  Campus Life, as both a community-based local and national organization, has such a large array of responsibilities and past involvements that, for some students, it was hard to distinguish in one clear thought exactly who or what they were. Maxey said that although he thinks they communicate their purpose very clearly outside of school, the purpose for Campus Life’s presence on a school campus may be a little confusing.

  Especially for those uninvolved, the confusion over one concise goal might be a reason explaining why some students feel uneasy with Campus Life’s presence at GBHS.

  Junior Julia Huss said that although she thinks religious clubs should be allowed on campus, she does not personally think Campus Life should be allowed on because it seems as if they are looking to proselytize students.

  According to Advanced Placement Government teacher Jarrod Westberg, it is a conflict of interest that a religious organization is at GBHS.

  “If they are religiously affiliated and (openly admit they are), then it is a huge conflict of interest to be on a school,” Westberg said. “If they say they are religiously affiliated and if they are trying to push their religion on people they should absolutely not be here, in a legal sense. I am sure that that group has found the legal way to get into the school, but looking at it, if that’s what they’re doing, it’s totally wrong.”

   However, the fact that Campus Life is a religious organization might not be the sole aspect that makes some students feel uncomfortable. Some students have said they are also perturbed by representatives who come to promote Campus Life – most are adults rather than GBHS students. The lack of other religiously-affiliated school clubs may also intensify a student’s discomfort.

   “I think as school clubs, you should be able to have a club surrounded by your religion or talk about your religion or culture (but) if … kids were in charge of it, it would be different because when it’s adults, you feel more of a weird pressure,” Huss said. “I would be open to them having all kids running it for all different religions, all different cultures When it’s adults and it’s only one religion, it’s weird.”

  Keaton Dougherty, a junior, said that he also finds the presence of adults on campus to promote a religious school club to be disconcerting. Dougherty said that he is uncomfortable that adults, rather than students, are in charge of the booth.

    When asked about her thoughts regarding some students discomfort over the appearance of Campus Life at GBHS, Leighton said she would need to know more about students’ feelings of discomfort but that there isn’t any direct pressure to interact with the club.

  “My understanding is that they are positive adults hanging out at the request of our student-run Campus Life Club,” Leighton said. “There’s certainly no obligation to talk to Campus Life adults, or to even go to that far end of the campus where their table is set up.  As long as they are invited by our student club, and have gone through the proper clearance channels – i.e. they’ve checked in at the office and the teacher responsible for the club is expecting their arrival – we can’t deny their presence.”

  However, according to Westberg, it is also a conflict of interest not only that the group is religiously-affiliated but also that they are making students uneasy at school – a place where students should be made to feel completely at ease.

  “Any group that’s here on campus should absolutely not be here if they are making students feel uncomfortable – whether it’s a Christian group (or) a Muslim group. The number one job of the school district is to protect the students – period. It is not to say ‘Well this group is okay in our eyes.’ If students are being made to feel uncomfortable they should absolutely not be on campus.”

  Huss said that, to her, it seems as if GBHS is pushing an “overall ideal of what you have to be to be on this campus” by allowing Campus Life access.

  Westberg also said that them being on campus is a “definite indirect endorsement.”

 According to Ethan Guttman, a Jewish senior at GBHS who said he attended Campus Life meetings his freshman year with his two friends – both of whom were atheists – although he does not necessarily like Campus Life being on campus, he thinks their goals and aspirations are admirable. When Guttman was involved with the organization, he said the meeting were like a “social group for kids.”

   Similarly, Destiny Valencia, a junior who still participates in Campus Life, talked highly of the social aspect of Campus Life when asked why she attends meetings.

  “A couple of friends told me how interesting it was and how everybody is so nice and people are there for you so … I went and (that) got me involved,” Valencia said. “(At meetings) we hang out, we talk about God and then we’ll do activities and they’ll have food for us – so it’s pretty fun.”

  According to Maxey, meetings are led according to the national curriculum. The meetings are topical, followed by a discussion and video.

 “(February is) love month, so we’ll talk about parent relationships, peer relationships (and) girlfriend/boyfriend (relationships),” Maxey said. “We spend most of our time in small groups where we really listen. Our goal is (to) talk ten percent of the time and (have) the kids talk 90 percent of the time. It just allows students a venue to be heard, so it’s not a preaching thing – (like) telling you how to live your life – it’s like ‘Here’s some parameters, why don’t you tell us what your experiences are with dating or your parents or divorce.’ We facilitate conversations more than we sit and lecture about stuff.”

  Although Maxey himself is not a licensed counselor, the organization does work with such mental health professionals, as well as other services.

  “We certainly have counselors on staff and … nationally many of our programs work with licensed therapists,” Maxey said. “(When) we do Point Break, (which) is … an anti-bullying program (and) … an evidence-based faith-neutral all-day workshop. In those all-day workshops we do have licensed counselors and then we actually work with the school counselors and people from the police department. I’m not a counselor, so I don’t offer counseling advice … (but) we refer out and we’re mandated reporters so if something bad happens I’m the guy that calls the school. As a non-profit youth organization all of our staff is mandated reporters.”

   At the school level, Campus Life serves as a club on the GBHS campus and sets up a booth once a week. Religion is never discussed on campus but is discussed briefly at meetings held outside of school.

  According to the Equal Access Act, school-based clubs cannot be discriminated against over presence on campus, which is what guarantees the Campus Life club the right to exist.

   “The … Act states that it’s illegal for public high schools to discriminate among student clubs,” GBHS principal Jennifer Leighton said. “Additionally, public schools have to remain neutral on matters of religion, and nonreligious matters.  That means that no adults – either employees of our school or those that come from the outside – can lead religious activities. Only our students can.”

  Although they are guaranteed the right to exist as a club, Campus Life, when visiting the GBHS campus, must follow a certain set of regulations.

  According to the Granite Bay High School Roseville Joint Union High School District Student Handbook for 2015-16, “student visitors are not allowed on the GBHS campus during the school day.  Pre-authorized adult visitors must check-in at the front office and wear a visitor’s pass at all times.”

  Some students wonder how other organizations with a different religious affiliation other than Christianity would be welcomed on the GBHS campus,

  “I’m sure (an Islamic club) would be judged a lot more.”  Dougherty  said, “I feel like there would definitely be complaints (but) I don’t know if they would be removed.”

  Huss also said that she thinks the school would never allow a Muslim-affiliated club to come on campus.

  However, Leighton said that she has had conversations with different students about inviting different religiously-affiliated groups on campus and that they are more than welcome.

   “A Muslim or Jewish (or other religiously-affiliated) organization would definitely be allowed on campus,” Leighton said. “Students have asked me this in the past, and I’ve always answered in the affirmative.  The important distinction is that a student club/group must invite them – it can’t be initiated by their particular organization.”

  In regards to their overall purpose, Maxey spoke more of their community-based approach rather than their religious-affiliation, although he says that that is also an important factor in what they do.

  “One of the things that psychologists have discovered is … that when it comes to assets for kids to be successful, one of the things that has been proven (important) over and over again, is that caring adults in kids’ lives really makes a difference,” Maxey said. “So regardless of the faith background, having adults that care, that have been background checked and screened, … it’s nothing but positive. Having more caring adults in life as a kid is a good thing. Having the right caring adults in the lives of kids (is good).

  “I would say that there is a faith component to everything that we do. So in one sense, I don’t want to dodge the question, I don’t want to say that (faith) is not a motivating factor (because) that’s absolutely part of our motivation is (wanting) our faith to shine through our actions. But, it’s much more than that.”

Administrator’s personal blog causes disruption amongst students

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 6. Friday, March 4, 2016. Can be read here.


 

   In most cases of judgments involving students and faculty members, it’s the student who is being judged and the faculty member who does the judging. But the recent discovery of a fashion-based blog produced by assistant principal Melanie Anvari has flipped that typical scenario.

 Granite Bay High School created a new job – intervention counselor – at the beginning of the 2015 school year. Melanie Anvari, who had not previously worked at GBHS, was hired to fill this position. At the beginning of the 2016 spring semester, Anvari was named to replace Sybil Healy as one of four assistant principals.

  Anvari had created a personal blog which was meant, she said, as a quasi-Joan Rivers’ “Fashion Police” mixed with Stacey London’s “What Not To Wear.” She intended it to serve as a kind of helpful-hint website – fashion policing from behind a screen. But students at GBHS who discovered the blog – which has since been deleted – were surprised and even offended by blog posts dating back to 2009-10, although the blog was last updated in late 2015.

  “This was a while ago, 2009-2010 – a while ago – and, for the first part of college, I wanted to go into writing and … journalism,” Anvari said. “I started the blog because I was at the moment where I really wanted to be … a fashion (critic). Like the show (“Fashion Police” with) Joan Rivers and her daughter. I thought something like that would be the coolest thing.

  “I started it because (I thought), ‘That’s it, that’s what I’m going to do if teaching doesn’t work out. I’m going to do this.’ I missed writing. When you’re in journalism, you change your style of writing to fit whatever you’re trying to do, and that was that style of writing. Since then, I definitely switched (my) blogging from ‘What Not To Wear’ type (of) fashion (posts) to more lifestyle-(themed posts), but I just started running out of time and my priorities shifted.”

  The older posts, dating back to 2009, gained the most popularity as they were the most critical. Screenshots of these posts circulated among students and especially among seniors.

  Sonia Matheus, a senior, said she first came into contact with Anvari’s blog after a friend showed her screenshots  of old posts.

  “When I first read the pages sent to me, I just had to laugh out loud – it was utterly ridiculous,” Matheus said. “Not only were some of her comments degrading, but they were words that I wouldn’t expect to see come from a professional. I’ve never come into direct contact with Anvari, (so) the blog is the first time I had indirect contact with her, therefore I can’t tell you how she portrays herself as a person/professional. However, reading those comments really turned me off – I wouldn’t want to speak with anyone who openly degrades people, no matter if it was a thing of the past.”

  Although these posts, along with the blog, have since been deleted, screenshots of the posts remain in circulation and have been distributed by students and others via text and group messages. Portions of the blog are still cached on the internet and can be found using Google.

  The theme and content of the blog focuses mainly on criticizing the clothing choices of strangers.

  Blog posts include topics such as costume days from the perspective of a teacher: “Being a teacher is slightly annoying during major holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc. It’s EXPECTED that you will dress up and be festive for these cliché holidays. You would think at the high school level, this would all die down but you are wrong. If anything, the high school kiddos are MORE excited to wear pink on Valentine’s day or wear their fabulous slutty ‘fill in the blank here’ costumes.”

  They also include fashion tips: “General tip: DRESS FOR YOUR BODY TYPE. Not all (women) can pull off certain types of dresses, don’t kid yourselves! … Take someone (shopping with you) who will let you know that clingy fabrics are not the best choice for larger-sized dresses, this way you can save yourself from being on this blog.”

  Additionally, they give personal pointers: “Personal choice: I never wear leggings with a shirt that is too short. After all, leggings cling to EVERYTHING! … Moral of the story: ‘Cover the cookie or else he is gonna want to eat it,’ as quoted from my … stripper dance class.”

    Some students who read the older posts were surprised that, given the ease of finding the blog online, it apparently didn’t come up when Anvari was being hired as an interim assistant principal. It isn’t clear whether the blog was discovered by the hiring committee or taken into account during the hiring process.

  Both GBHS principal Jennifer Leighton and Roseville Joint Union High School District Superintendent Ron Severson declined to be interviewed for this story.

  “I am going to pass on this one,” Severson said in an email. “Not sure I want to be even a part of this story.”

  According to the Professional Standards for all district employees, “inappropriate employee conduct includes, but is not limited to … using profane, obscene or abusive language against students, parents/guardians, staff or community members.”

  All district employees are held to the standards listed and expected to perform in such a manner as to meet these expectations.

  The fact that the blog is so accessible shocked seniors Macayla Thomas and Ryder Sanders, who both said they thought it should have been a factor in the hiring process.

  “I was very shocked to see that something like that would still be up when she is going out looking for jobs,” Sanders said. “I was also shocked that our admin did not find it in the hiring process.”

  Anvari said she generally does not think an online presence should necessarily be relevant in the hiring process, as long as a person’s personal and work life remain separate.

   Ironically, Anvari is partially responsible for enforcing the dress code on campus.

  “If she were to enforce dress code, her words on the blog make it look like she could be dress coding people based off of her standards of what’s appropriate,” Matheus says, “(rather than) what is actually prohibited.”

   Anvari said the purpose of her blog posts was never to harass or offend individuals by name, and especially not students.

  “I feel like the purpose of blogs … is to express yourself and to say how you feel. What I wrote about was how I felt,” Anvari said. “What I wrote about was never from my work. I didn’t write about anybody I worked with, I never wrote about students – I wrote about things on my personal weekend, like concerts or being out. It was never about anyone individually. It was more … (about) life lessons.”

  She also said that, as the only female assistant principal, it is her goal to strive to become an ally for the female population, especially senior girls. Anvari said she wants to repair what might be a broken relationship with senior females.

  However, some male seniors might have been offended by particular blog posts. Sanders, for example, said he was upset by comments on a blog post from 2013 about American Flag Attire that classified all such clothing under the category “The Bad.”

  “I had no idea how many hats, shirts, pants, shorts, scarves they made out of the American flag,” Anvari wrote in her blog. “I couldn’t tell if people were genuinely patriotic or poking fun. I was confused and I didn’t like it.”

  Sanders said he thought these comments were “disrespectful and rude” because being patriotic, even through clothing, is not something which should be “frowned upon.”

  Most teachers don’t have a significant digital footprint – or if they do, it isn’t generally accessible to students. Given her relatively new status as a GBHS staff member, some students are asking if her blog posts have had a lasting effect on her professional reputation.

     “I have never had any personal interaction with Anvari, but … it made a lasting impression,” senior Macayla Thomas said. “To me, it is highly unprofessional to have … a blog that comes off as very superficial and judgmental which we need less of, not more.”

  Other students, however, disagree.

    “The screenshots that I saw – (because the blog) was taken down before I could see it – were all from five or six years ago,” said a senior girl who asked to remain anonymous. “If you think about it, everyone has done stupid things in their past, and this was nearly a decade ago. If it was more recent, I would probably be more upset about it, but it’s in her past and hopefully she’s different now.”

  According to Anvari, while she said she does not regret any of the posts, she also said she deleted the blog because she heard students were upset – and the second students either misinterpreted or took offense is when she knew it had to go.

  At the time, Anvari said she meant every word she said, but when posting online, it is important to think of how comments can be perceived from others’ point of view. Also, she said she wishes students would talk directly to her instead of talking to other students about her.

  “I don’t think I did anything wrong, I just want to fix how people are feeling,” Anvari said. “What I wish is that people would come talk to me instead of talking about it with other people. And I say that to students all the time too, because the biggest conflicts can arise when people talk about (things) with other people instead of involving that person.

  “I would never, ever … talk about my students that I work with – that is so unprofessional. I just want people to talk to me about it so they can understand. I don’t want to hear that they talked to (others first). That’s not going to solve anything, it’s just going to make it worse.”

  The members of the millennial generation – those born roughly between 1980-2000 – face a new threat of outward surveillance, a new form of scrutiny that can haunt them even from their past. A millennial’s online presence, depending on what they’ve posted, might hinder employment opportunities and relationships – a more modern problem not seen often by older generations.

  This problem is especially groundbreaking because with the speed and efficiency of modern technology, a person’s whole past – regrettable or otherwise – can effortlessly appear on the screen of any leisurely Google-user.

  According to a report published by On Device Research, a market analysis firm, one in 10 young people 18 to 34 who are looking for a job have not been employed because of their activity on social media. Yet 70 percent of those surveyed also said they had no concerns about the impact of their personal social media accounts on their chances of finding employment.

  Additionally, 66 percent said the threat of social media impacting future employment opportunities would not hinder their use of it.

  “I think the lesson about online presence is to just be careful,” Matheus said. “Nothing really gets fully erased on the internet, and the web is a much different and a more comprehensive place than has ever been created. Of course people can publicize their opinions in America, but it is important to put things into context. View everything in context, and of course use your brain.”

  For Anvari, the lesson is to remember that whatever is being posted is permanent.

  “Once you put it out there, it’s there,” Anvari said. “You know what you meant by it and you know what you intended to say with it, but other people may perceive it differently. But at the same time, in life you can’t have regrets. That’s why I say I don’t regret (the blog). I thought about it and I meant every word I said and it was never meant towards anybody.

  “But you have to think about the whole picture and (other) people’s perceptions. When you do something and when you put something out there with social media … you have to think about it and you have to be OK with the consequences.

  “I think this is a really great, teachable moment. Because … you’re constantly learning and growing as a person because every day is a new battle and a new struggle (and) … the cool thing out of this (situation) is that it’s not what you’ve done before, it’s where you go from there.”

Students’ views on the death penalty

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 8. Friday, May 22, 2015.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: With the upcoming trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, I thought it would be interesting if I examined the controversy of the death penalty.


 

   On April 15, 2013, two Russian brothers permanently changed the lives of over 260 people and took the lives of three when two bombs exploded at the annual Boston Marathon. The brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planted the bombs near the finish line, and have been notoriously remembered since as the perpetrators of an infamous day that will stand out in America’s history.

  After the explosion, the two brothers killed a police officer and hijacked a car. During the manhunt and succeeding shootout with the police, Tamerlan was pronounced dead after receiving gunshot wounds from the police and injuries after being run over with the stolen SUV by his brother, Dzhokhar.

  Shortly after the shootout, Dzhohkar was found and detained by police. Recently, a jury found him guilty on the 30 accounts he was tried for and now faces the death penalty.

  The death penalty – otherwise known as capital punishment – dates back as early as 1608 in America, with its popularity peaking in the 1930s when the average number of deaths as caused by capital punishment was 167 per year.

  Capital punishment is still legal in California, but support from Americans for capital punishment has been slowly decreasing. A recent study done by the Pew Research Center found 56 percent of Americans support capital punishment, in general, but 71 percent of Americans from the same poll said they believe there is a possibility an innocent person could be found guilt for the death penalty.

  “(In) modern day America … I would probably say (support for the death penalty) is lowering,” Granite Bay High School senior Jude Battaglia said. “Because in today’s society, where human rights are on the table and being discussed openly when it comes to LGBT rights, when it comes to people of color’s rights, I believe human rights are being discussed. And when people are fighting for equality, that is influencing the value of human life (as well as) the punishments that go along with it, and I believe that people are no longer passive about the subject of the death penalty, but are opposed to (it).”

  Battaglia, who said he is in support of the death penalty as a form of punishment for crimes such as premeditated murder, rape and molestation, also said he believes the Granite Bay community as a whole is opposed to the death penalty. However, Battaglia said that death as a form of punishment will better help discourage people from committing crimes.

  “My thoughts on the death penalty are (that) I believe it is a valid and viable punishment,” Battaglia said. “Mainly because there are certain situations where incarceration is not going to have any effect on the person committing the crime. If somebody is going to a commit a crime, anybody who has second thoughts on it is going to be less likely to commit the crime if the punishment is death, but anybody who’s going to commit the crime regardless of the consequences is going to not have any sway on the matter.”

  Maddie Peterson, another GBHS senior, also said she is in support of the death penalty because she believes people who murder other people are often not fully mentally stable and, unless deserving of mental treatment via a mental health facility, should be punished with the death penalty.

  Sacramento State Assistant Professor and expert on international law and human rights James Rae said that historical events have greatly impacted the level of international support for the death penalty as a form of punishment.

  “With the end of World War II, the death penalty has dramatically declined as a form of punishment in modern democracies,” Professor Rae said. “It is virtually non-existent in Europe, and no international court allows for the death penalty today. Part of that is a reaction to intentional mass murder by the Nazi regime and a general societal change in Europe that came to see capital punishment as inhumane and uncivilized. The movement in the 1960s and 1970s that led briefly to its abolishment in the US reflected greater skepticism toward the government and more support for civil rights.”

  Another semi-recent event, the 2014 botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, reignited the debate over capital punishment as an ethical form of punishment.

  Junior Naseeha Islam, who said she is in general opposition of the death penalty but believes it should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, said she thinks more people are in opposition of the death penalty after Lockett’s mishandled execution, which showed an inhumane side of the topic. Islam is also against the death penalty as a punishment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, unlike Battaglia and Peterson – both in support for Tsarnaev’s case.

  “Honestly, (his punishment) should probably be life in prison,” Islam said. “Because if there’s a death of four, why would you make it death of five? I understand that everything he did was completely unpardonable and disgusting and horrific, but at the same time is modern civilization going to stoop to that level and kill another person (because) they committed these terrible crimes? There are certain (cases) where you think they deserve the death penalty, but at the same time, if you’re trying to be a forgiving society, why not lead them towards rehabilitation?”

  Additionally, Professor Rae said it is unclear whether or not there is a clear difference in support for the death penalty throughout different age groups.

  “We may assume older people may more support it due to traditional religious values,” Professor Rae said “(While) younger people are more influenced by skepticism toward the authority and power of government. Yet among my students, many, if not most, voice support for the death penalty for ‘terrorists’, and those who may be considered out of the bounds of acceptable behavior. Many other young people suspect bias in the application of the death penalty and are suspicious of poor performance of duties by those in institutions of power.”

  Islam also said, because of the discrepancies and changing trends in public support or opposition for the death penalty, it has become somewhat of a difficult topic. The government may not know whether the American public is in support or opposition of the death penalty in a certain case which makes it even more of a difficult topic, Islam said.

  Furthermore, opposition for the death penalty has been shown to be slightly increased for those who attend church regularly, according to a poll done by Gallup. GBHS junior Jacob Calton who practices the beliefs of Protestant Christianity as well as following  his own self-determined beliefs shaped by personal morals and ethics said he thinks his beliefs on the death penalty have not changed completely, but have been influenced by his religion to a certain degree.

  “I think I’m more gracious (with) giving the death penalty because I’m a Christian,” Calton said. “But I don’t think I believe it’s necessarily wrong (just) because I’m a Christian. I would say, (for Tsarnaev’s punishment), probably life in prison. I think because he took so many people’s lives or threatened to … he should almost sit in prison to … gain respect for life itself. If you have life in prison you’re obviously going to realize life is a long time … to take from other people.”

 The jury in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s case must now deliberate his punishment, but they ultimately hold his life in their hands. The primary understanding when deliberating on the death penalty is the knowledge one’s life is on the line, and whether or not their crimes are deserving of death.

  “People want that individual to pay for what he’s done,” Islam said “But at the same time you want to be humane about how you punish that person, not bring yourself to the same level that the criminal was (on.) So, I think that’s where the discrepancy comes in – it’s like two sides to your own brain.”

Transphobia on the GBHS campus

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 5. Friday, Feb. 13, 2015.

Category: News

Reason for publication: I wanted to analyze the level to which transgender discrimination exists on the GBHS campus. What I found what shocking – a higher level of intolerance than what I initially suspected.


 

   On Dec. 28, 2014, Leelah Alcorn, a transgender Ohio teenager, committed suicide by stepping  in front of an oncoming truck. Hours after her demise, a pre-programmed suicide note she set to be published on the social media website Tumblr became a trending discussion on another social media site, Twitter.

  Especially popular in the note was the specific bit about Alcorn describing her own parent’s unacceptance of her desire to transition and the necessity of her death being significant.  Alcorn’s death has since served as something of a wake-up call for our society, catalyzing calls for nationwide transgender acceptance while also putting into perspective the different faces of discrimination transgender people face daily.

  While Alcorn herself resided on the other side of the country, her death surfaces an important question – does transgender discrimination exist in the Granite Bay community and, more specifically, at GBHS?

   One anonymous transgender Granite Bay High School student said, pre-transition, he thought he could never change his gender – born a girl – and as soon as he learned transition was possible he did research to learn more about it.

     “I never felt like a girl, but I’m not super masculine either and that made it hard to really know how I felt,” the student said. “My parents have not been fully accepting and because they aren’t I’ll have to wait until I’m eighteen to transition. This can be devastating to transgender people, but I’ve learned to accept it.”

  The transgender student said school is an escape because peers assume he is just another boy and do not look twice at him. However, he is not technically “out” to GBHS faculty and staff, and therefore they are not aware of the proper gendered pronouns to use.

  “If people looked at me and knew I was transgender I’m sure my life would be a lot different,” the student said. “I’ve been called derogatory terms like ‘tranny’ or ‘dyke.’ I haven’t seen much violent discrimination, thank goodness, but hate speech is definitely an issue in this community.”

   In a different circumstance, GBHS senior Tj Conway participated in the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club’s activity where students involved defied social and gender ‘norms.’ Conway wore differentiating amounts of makeup throughout the week and received a infinitesimal but harsh glimpse into the life of a transgender teenager in the Granite Bay community.

“The reactions that I received the first day … were fairly plain and simple,” Conway said. “Just the occasional ‘fag’ or ‘ha, gay!’ But as the week went on, it seemed people had … become less comfortable with the fact that this person who was fairly obviously a male was walking around like a normal guy with makeup on his face. The ‘ha, gay!’ turned into ‘tranny’, ‘poser’, ‘ugly ass bitch.’”

  He said while the experience wasn’t exactly pleasant, it did provide him with a new, more open perspective and a cruel insight into the discrimination circling around the GBHS campus aimed at its transgender population.

    GBHS senior and practicing Mormon Miriam Flinders said her religion believes that a man and woman were created so by God for a reason and feelings of gender confusion should be put aside. However, that does not mean believers of this religion partake in discrimination directed at the transgender community.

  “I would still be friends with people (who were transgender) because of the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated,” Flinders said. “But I just would not be in support of the(ir) choices. I wouldn’t discriminate, I just would not be in support of what they do.”

  IB and CP physics teacher Andrew Phillips said he sees discrimination toward the transgender community in other ways on campus, such as how school traditions are used to elicit humor, and that discrimination can be a form of comedy.

  “One of the things that I noticed when I came to Granite Bay was … (that) it’s almost a tradition (to) make fun of transgender students in an indirect way,” Phillips said. “For our homecoming game the football team wears the cheerleader’s clothes and the cheerleaders wear the football team’s pads and (everyone thinks) ‘isn’t this funny that we’re dressed up like the opposite gender’. I don’t think anybody is intending for that to be offensive, but I was really surprised … (that) that’s humor across this campus.”

  Phillips is also co-advisor of the GSA club with social psychology and IB History of the Americas teacher Jill McKinney. To promote acceptance the GSA has discussed holding a vigil for Leelah Alcorn to show support and solidarity.

   Additionally, an anonymous student at GBHS recently experienced the transition of her dad who now goes by the name Dani. As a result of Dani’s transition, the student’s view of transgender people has since changed.

  “Before … Dani’s transition, transgenders scared me because I thought that they all dressed up very crazy and didn’t … look ‘normal,’” the student said. “(However), my opinion has changed drastically (because) I realized that transgenders can look ‘normal’ and even if they didn’t it means nothing because they are finally the person they feel like they really are.”

  The student said Dani has found happiness and contentment through living the life she always deserved and wanted but denied herself. However, she said Dani’s transition hasn’t been accepted by a few family members.

 “I think the hardest part about having a parent transition is that at first I felt like I was losing them forever,” the student said. “But now I know that it has only brought us closer and that this was truly an amazing thing that happened for Dani. If I could tell someone that discriminates against transgenders one thing, I would say don’t judge them because they aren’t doing anything to harm those around them, they’re just trying to be the best person they think they should have been all along. Honestly, Dani’s transition was the best thing that has happened in my life and I’m so thankful for it.”

  One proposed solution to end discrimination on the GBHS campus is by including education about lifestyle and gender choices and sexual orientation through mandatory health classes. While Phillips said he is a bit more skeptical about the major change it could produce, McKinney said she strongly supports the idea but does not believe discrimination will ever end entirely.

 “Education … and information (are) always the way to stop discrimination,” McKinney said. “It’s like that with anybody who’s being discriminated against – if you don’t know who they are, if you have an idea or a preconceived notion of who they are – you’re allowed to make a judgement … but once you know who that person is you may or may not make that same judgement”

  The previously mentioned transgender students said transgender people are still just people above all with genuine feelings and emotions and should not be the target of discrimination.

  “To those who discriminate against the trans community, I say to you that I am shocked that you care so much about whether someone’s genitals matches their outward appearance,” the student said. “Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Always love your friends, family, neighbors and strangers no matter their gender or sexual orientation. And above all else, assume nothing.”

Patriotism on a public school campus

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 7. Friday, April 17, 2015.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: Twice a week, a video bulletin is aired to the student population. The videos started to include patriotic quotes from former U.S. president’s on a waving flag. I wondered why this was, and was informed public schools have to have at least one patriotic observance per day. In this story, I hoped to uncover the reasoning and purpose of patriotism on a school campus.


 

   Recently, student legislators at University of California, Irvine voted to ban the presence of the flags of any nation – including America’s – in its campus’ student government building in order to avoid any exclusion that the flags may present.

  Following the vote, audible protest, mostly based on anger over the removal of the American flag, sprang up. The flag ban was eventually vetoed.

  On the Granite Bay High School campus, new patriotism quotes have appeared on GBHS Media’s bulletin, including statements from speakers such as former presidents Calvin Coolidge and George H.W. Bush.

  However, the quotes had appeared on bulletins prior to Zachary Weidkamp’s takeover of the Media department. The quotes were launched again this year after the administration reached out to Weidkamp, GBHS International Baccalaureate Film, Advanced Media and Beginning Media teacher, about incorporating them on the basis of a policy and a mutual agreement was reached.

  According to the Roseville Joint Union High School District policy, which follows the education code, a patriotic observance must occur every day at school and, in GBHS’ case, these take place in the form of either the Pledge of Allegiance or the quotes on the bulletins.

   Both the proposed flag ban and new patriotism quotes in the bulletins bring up the controversial issue of patriotism on the GBHS campus. GBHS principal Jennifer Leighton and district superintendent Ron Severson declined to be interviewed for this story.

  While many agree with and support the presence of patriotism on campus some, however, do not.

  The aforementioned patriotism-geared quotes serve to emphasize and recognize patriotism is something American citizen can all relate to, according to Weidkamp. However, some – like GBHS IB History of the Americas and Advanced Placement United States history teacher Brandon Dell’Orto said the quotes aren’t very effective and a potentially more successful use of time would be if the bulletin had a news segment or addressed national affairs.

  “I don’t think (the quotes) are really effective,” Dell’Orto said. “I don’t think they’re changing anybody, but I distinctly don’t think they’re hurting anybody. I think they’re effective in making sure we have some sort of patriotic observance (but) it’s a pretty innocuous way to do it.”

   GBHS junior Sonia Matheus said the quotes seem irrelevant and random, they appear without explanation or background and most people ignore them.

  Sophomore Parker Wilkin, conversely, said the quotes serve to remind the school of its background and the greatness of the country they live in.

  “I believe the purpose of the patriotic quotes in the bulletin is to both inspire patriotism and inform students about what makes our country so great and what it means to be an American,” Wilkin said. “I think patriotic quotes in the bulletin are a very effective way to promote patriotism. Most of us have been repeating the Pledge every day at school since kindergarten, so maybe some people don’t even think about its meaning anymore – if so, it may lose its effectiveness at promoting patriotism.”

  The varying opinions of the quotes brings up a greater idea of patriotism on campus and question its necessity. Dell’Orto said he believes patriotism is not explicitly necessary on campus, but that it’s presence isn’t

  “I think what’s necessary is to get kids, slowly but surely, to understand that in the system that we’ve set up they’ve got a say … at the age of 18,” Dell’Orto said. “But, (with) that comes a massive amount of responsibility. If you really want to build good citizens over time – that question should be a small version of how can the school be better? How could our classrooms be better? How could I be a better student? That then extrapolates out to – how can we make the country better?”

  GBHS Business Law, Computer Applications and Business Communications teacher William Patterson said he values patriotism, especially on a high school campus.

  Patterson said during his high school experience he had friends go to Vietnam during the war which had a major effect on him, and, because of his experience, he believes that experience during high school with patriotism will influence and impact the next generation’s patriotic identity.

  Wilkin also said he believes patriotism at school is a great way to create unity among GBHS students, but he said he does not believe schools should necessarily enforce patriotism because freedom is a defining factor of the United States.

  In opposition, Matheus said if schools want to teach patriotism, they should also teach about the nation’s follies.

  “They shouldn’t encourage patriotism unless they also show us the whole truth,” Matheus said. “I don’t think we should have (patriotic) observances unless we have the equal amount of time of education on the reality of our country. Education is necessary because blind nationalism promotes ignorance.”

  According to Dell’Orto, GBHS does a great job of reflecting on how great we are as a nation every day, but he proposes what the real purpose of the patriotic observances should be.

  “It’s not hard to get a bunch of people brainwashed to spout stuff off,” Dell’Orto said. “But to get people to think independently, to stand on their own two feet (and question the majority) – that, in my mind, is way more important than getting a kid to be able to understand that when we do the pledge you stand up and put your hand over your heart. That takes a lifetime of teaching, and I think that we are working on doing a pretty good job (of that).”