Letters to the Editor

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Alameda Unified families:
Over the last several years, Alameda Unified, like other school districts, has confronted expressions of bigotry and racism in forms ranging from hateful graffiti to troubling social media posts. While we believe that the majority of students in our community have a genuine appreciation and respect for our wonderful cross-cultural community, we are periodically reminded that there is a much smaller number of individuals who, for a variety of reasons, opt to attempt to shock or genuinely harm others with bigoted acts or expressions.

Though incidents like these may be comparatively small in overall number, each incident of this nature packs the potential to make large numbers of our students, staff, and families feel intimidated, distressed, or threatened, and no one in our community deserves to feel that way at or around school.

As such it is critical that each family in Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) have a conversation with their students before the school year begins to reinforce non-negotiable expectations of respect for the ancestry, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or gender expression of all in our school communities.

The Parent Handbook you are signing in our Data Confirmation packet, as a prerequisite to your child’s enrollment in AUSD, contains a revised discipline matrix and an anti-bullying statement that respectively convey that there will be consequences and interventions for hateful or bigoted language or behaviors, and that every student and family has a path to report this type of harm to each school’s administration.

AUSD will take these matters very seriously and as such we again ask that you review these general expectations with students as engaging in these behaviors could result in consequences including suspension, expulsion, and in the most serious cases, referrals to law enforcement.

As we said in the wake of one such incident in December of 2022, while a hard line on this issue is appropriate, it does not mean we will abandon our function as educators. We will also continue to utilize restorative practices and educational components as many of our educators already do in our classrooms, as well as in a cross-section of social studies coursework, during advisory periods, and through a variety of assigned literature and projects.

We are asking all school leaders to help reinforce these values at the school and classroom level as well.

Sustaining a genuinely inclusive and globally respectful school community requires a partnership between families and schools. While we will continue to refine the formal educational components and behavioral responses on our end, we urge each family in AUSD to have a short, direct, and hopefully courageous conversation about these expectations prior to the beginning of the school year. Resources for having these crucial — and admittedly sometimes difficult — conversations with your student are available on our website under Tools for Family Conversation.

Together, we truly can continuously shape our schools and communities toward the better with small, but intentional acts and candid conversations about our collective expectations of respect and inclusion.

— Pasquale Scuderi, AUSD Superintendent

Just wanted to comment on the letter written by Paul Marcelin about his unpleasant experience at Books, Inc. I love Books, Inc. I have been very happy with the friendly, professional. and helpful service from the employees there.

I approached the store about getting a donation for Alameda High School for our Grad Night. The manager Calla was so wonderful and generous — giving us a $50 gift card to raffle off at the event. She also invited me to reach out again if our school needs support in the future.

So, thank you Books, Inc. Yeah, maybe your employee had an off day (don’t we all sometimes). Alameda, let’s keep supporting our local businesses — they are an important part of our community.

— Angie Watson-Hajjem

Soon students will head back to school, some entering the classroom for the first time. The American Red Cross Northern California Coastal region offers ten ways to help make sure your student is safe as they head back to school for the upcoming year.

“There are some special steps parents of younger kids should take, especially if they have youngsters going to school for the first time,” said Ana Romero, Red Cross Regional Preparedness Manager. “They should make sure the child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 911. And teach them not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.”

Here are more steps to follow to help your child stay safe:

  • If your student rides a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.
  • Students should board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed them to get on. They should only board their bus, never an alternate one.
  • All students should stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
  • If children go to school in a car, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8 to 12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
  • If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls and avoid eating or drinking while driving.
  • Some students ride their bikes to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right, in the same direction as the traffic is going.
  • When children are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards.

Parents should walk young children to school, along with children taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for students to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

— American Red Cross

Editor’s note: The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, visit www.redcross.org.