Thank you to all of those who attended last night's BOE meeting and all community members who took the opportunity to have their voice heard (click here to access the video replay). Regardless of your perspective, anyone willing to stand up in front of their community and express their views, especially our youngest Stamford residents, deserves respect.
The members of SPU want to extend special thanks to Elijah and the Trofort family for sharing their struggles to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). FAPE is federal legislation that states, "a free appropriate public education must be available to all children residing in the State between the ages of 3 and 21, including children with disabilities"(§300.530(d)).
If anyone knows the Trofort family, please give them our email address StamfordParentsUnited@gmail.com. SPU wants to amplify their story and ensure these systemic issues are addressed, the students responsible for mistreating Elijah are properly disciplined, and most importantly that the district follows through on their legal obligation to provide Elijah with an appropriate public education.
1/24 BOE MEETING SUMMARY
Amending Policy 5002 (transgender/gender non-conforming students)
BOE approved the following amendment (red & underlined): School personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student's transgender or nonbinary status or gender non-conforming presentation to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure, nor, however, shall school personnel promise or otherwise offer to students to keep such information confidential from parents.
Before passing the amendment, there was extensive discussion about how this still didn't go far enough to protect parents' rights. Hamman pointed out that if a student told their guidance counselor that they were questioning their gender, this still didn't require this school personnel to tell the parents as they naturally would for any other issues that arises in school.
SPU encourages parents to continue to demand the BOE and Superintendent do MORE to protect parental rights (children are not safe if parental rights are not guaranteed and enforced). We also encourage you to investigate how our local policies are influenced by state policies.
NEW calendar for 2023-24 School year
The calendar was brought from the Labor Committee to the full BOE with 4 new religious holidays added and Indigenous Peoples' Day (IPD) coupled with Columbus Day.
Upon introducing the topic, BOE president Jackie Heftman offered an amendment: remove IPD (since it's not recognized by the city of Stamford) and move Diwali, 3 Kings Day and 1 of the 2 Eids to the lower portion of the calendar. In doing so, we would recognize and include people of all religions, while not adding days to the calendar and extending the school year (the second Eid falls on spring break, so it doesn't add any days).
There was discussion about the process of deciding the criteria for getting days off. Munshi-South suggested it be based on inclusivity and fairness so that all religions are recognized and respected; Esses suggested it be based on the practical matter of operation our schools. A sub-committee will be created to decide for the 2024-25 calendar.
SPU respects everyone's religious views and practices and in accordance with the 1975 Civil Rights act, believe reasonable accommodations should be extended to students based on these beliefs and practices. Further, in accordance with the First Amendment, we believe the government should not get involved in religion and therefore, apply a completely neutral standard - can our schools operate (we endorse Esses' position as expressed in the meeting).
Other Items of Note
Contract with administrators was renegotiated, bringing their total raise to 9.5% over 3 years instead of 10.5%. It still needs to pass other layers before getting approved.
We already pay our administrators MORE than most other surrounding school districts AND we DON'T have an issue retaining administration (unlike, teachers where we have a major shortage). Therefore, SPU believes we the raise being offered is still too large.
The curriculum audit gave 80 recommendations to the district. Munshi-South is the head of that committee and has reviewed them but didn't give any specific next steps (which we at SPU eagerly await).
Suggested next step: email the board and thank them for their thoughtful discussion last night and reaffirm your position on the key issues. Also, we suggest ending with some questions and the request for them to email you back with answers.
What is the timeline for getting written curriculum for the other 80% of the courses offered in our schools? What are the most immediate specific action steps?
I understand the calendar issues is going to a subcommittee for further discussion, but what is your current position on the criteria that should be used to determine which religious and/or federal holidays on which schools should close?
Why is it so difficult to require the school to report to parents ANY and ALL issues or concerns with their student, including but not limited to their gender and sexuality? If a teacher thinks reporting such information to a student's family would lead to abuse, aren't teachers mandated reporters and required to report the suspicion of abuse to someone?
Keeping up with all of the action is not an easy task between your own job and taking care of your family, so we hope you find value from our meeting summaries.
Let us know if you have any questions or thoughtful feedback.