Parent Forum: Yes Means Yes

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The statistics are startling.  The American Association of Universities reports that 19-23% of women undergraduates report having been sexually assaulted –- using the definition of any unwanted sexual contact, including kissing and touching over one’s clothes, while 10.8% of women undergraduates report penetration by force, or while incapacitated.  In light of these numbers, what can parents do to prepare their children for campus life?  During a South Pasadena High School Parent Teacher Student Association meeting on Monday April 25, parents got a chance to hear several experts share their insights. 

First to present was Hailyn Chen, a litigation partner with the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, who currently represents the University of California in student sexual misconduct litigation both system-wide and at five UC campuses.  Ms. Chen explained that there are certain risk factors involved in such assaults, with alcohol consumption being at the top of that list.  Ms. Chen also pointed out that a female college freshman is the most likely to be assaulted, with the odds dropping by half when a woman becomes a senior.  Parents and students can arm themselves with information about crimes reported at any particular college campus thanks to the Clery Act, which was passed in 1990. The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses.  Ms. Chen also advised students who experience a sexual assault on campus to simultaneously report it to both campus authorities and the local police in order to initiate parallel investigations.  


Title 9 also comes into play in campus sexual assault cases, since colleges are mandated to investigate and adjudicate instances of sexual assault in order to receive Federal funding.  The onus is on the college to take immediate action to address misconduct it knew about or reasonably should have known about and to protect the complainant from retaliation and further trauma by issuing a “stay away” order, suspending the assailant, offering emotional support to the victim and making academic and housing accommodations, whichever action is deemed necessary.

Another law in California, SB 967, has impacted the definition of campus sexual assault. SB 967, California’s  “Yes Means Yes” makes affirmative consent language a central tenant of school sexual assault policies and changes how campus officials investigate sexual assault allegations.  The bill defines consent as an “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.”   A short video explaining that consent can’t be given when one is unconscious, that consent can be revoked at any time and that consent given once does not mean consent is always a given, was played for the ample crowd gathered in the South Pasadena High School library. 

The second presenter was Melodie Kruspodin, a Youth Leadership Development Manager from the nonprofit organization Peace Over Violence (POV), who works on policy, education, and prevention in collaboration with LAUSD and other institutions. POV offers an emergency hotline, support groups and legal advocacy for victims of sexual assault.  The organization also offers schools a curriculum that allows teachers and students to explore the roots of violence, identify and recognize healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics and provides instruction regarding how to be a peacemaker.

Under a new law in California, AB 329, California public schools are required to provide students in grades 7 through 12 comprehensive sexual health education which includes education on HIV prevention (which already is mandatory) together with sexual health education, into a single, mandatory course of instruction with updated curriculum.  The curriculum includes information about sexual harassment, sexual assault, adolescent relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, and sex trafficking.  Peace Over Violence works with schools to meet this new requirement while helping students understand the results of their actions, build empathy and understand what affirmative consent means.  The organization also works on risk reduction by talking about not sexually assaulting someone.

The last speaker was Christiane Gervais, the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services at South Pasadena Unified.  Ms. Gervais explained that the curriculum mandated under AB 329 would be presented in Health Education classes at the South Pasadena High School and during the Life Science classes for seventh grade students at South Pasadena Middle School.  Other topics to be included in class discussions involve how to accept rejection, how to resist pressure to become sexually intimate and how to resolve conflict.  She also explained that the present curriculum at the middle school is in the process of being modified for SPUSD high school students.

PTSA Forum: Student Stress

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Parents, teachers, administrators and students throughout the country are grappling with a very serious concern:  stress. It is no secret that too much schoolwork, rigorous AP classes, high expectations and the pressure to get into top colleges can lead to unhealthy and sometimes deadly outcomes and many school districts are trying to stay ahead of the problem.  In fact, the need for student support in this area has led to a state bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) requiring schools to have a suicide-prevention policy.  Judging from statistics gathered within the last six months at South Pasadena High School, it appears that this proposed legislation comes not a minute too soon.
A recent poll of 292 randomly selected South Pasadena High School students, conducted by the SPHS Student Peer Mediators, revealed that 42.6 % of that group felt chronic sadness and hopelessness in the last 12 months, while 19.9% of those students said they had considered suicide during that same period.  A 2014 Healthy Kids Survey of SPHS students indicated that 41% of SPHS students felt “very stressed”, while 31% felt “somewhat stressed.”

Fortunately, SPHS students are now being supported by the “Train Your Brain” program that is designed to help create a more mindful atmosphere on campus.  In addition, and new this year, a group of students have formed a Peer Mediation Club that is working to start a dialogue between students and staff regarding issues impacting our students’ emotional health.  On Monday, May 23, the South Pasadena High School Parent Teacher Student Association hosted the Student Peer Mediators’ “Student Stress Workshop” where parents had an opportunity to hear directly from students who spoke candidly about the stresses they are experiencing and how those stresses impact their wellbeing.  Parents then had the opportunity to break into discussion groups to brainstorm ideas regarding how to help our students cope.

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The evening was enlightening and contained a few surprises.  For example, some parents did not expect to hear that, despite a lack of sleep and extremely tight schedules, most students on the panel would choose to keep all of their activities and classes. The almost unanimous advice from parents to students to simplify extra curricular activities and take less rigorous classes was almost unanimously dismissed by the student panel who said they found enjoyment in their chosen activities and wanted to remain academically competitive.  The students, instead, expressed a desire to learn how to better cope with stress and shared that sometimes they just need a parent to sit and listen to them without offering advice — and for parents to offer a hug and a favorite snack instead.  As Ms. Natasha Prime, Director of the Train Your Brain Program, explained, “As parents we are wired to try to fix things for our kids, but this is the time to help them figure it out.”

Hopefully, the next South Pasadena High School Healthy Kids Survey will reflect some progress in the areas of student stress and chronic sadness.  In the meantime, we have our school counselors and staff, our Train Your Brain facilitators, our Student Mediators and better informed parents on hand to help our kids cope with the pressures of modern high school life.

How PTA advocacy benefits our kids

Judge backtracks on release of California student records

By Sharon Noguchi, , Posted: 03/04/2016

Responding to overwhelming public protest, a federal judge has backtracked on the potential release of records for 10 million California students — and decided that they won’t be provided to attorneys in a special-education lawsuit.

Instead, Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled that the huge database will remain solely with the California Department of Education, which then will have to assist attorneys seeking evidence in the state’s electronic files.

But the judge left in place the potential release to attorneys of other comprehensive information, including six years of statewide STAR test data, plus records of special-education students, who make up about 10 percent of pre-K-12 students statewide. Those databases include mental health and behavior records.

Parents and privacy advocates applauded Mueller’s decision but still worried it will allow the release of sensitive details. The huge database on students and teachers includes names, addresses, disciplinary records, grades, test scores, and even details such as pregnancy, addiction and criminal history. Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum said the data are “inappropriate in any hands” other than those of education authorities.



Joint Statement from ACSA, CSBA and PTA, April 20, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Plaintiffs in the Robles-Wong v. State of California lawsuit expressed disappointment in the ruling today by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The case, brought forward in 2010 by the California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators and California State PTA, along with nine individual school districts and approximately 60 individual students and their families, alleges that the state’s school finance system violates article IX (the Education Article) of the California Constitution.

In a 2-1 ruling for the defendants, the Appeals Court held that the California Constitution does not guarantee the right to an adequate level of education as defined by funding or by qualitative measures, stipulating only that the state must provide for a “system of common schools.”


March Association Meeting Summary

Lots of Activities happening at SPHS PTSA! At the March 23rd PTSA Association Meeting  we announced the upcoming Honorary Service Awards Luncheon and acceptance of nominations. Grad Night preparations are underway! Principal Janet Anderson announced completion of the Campus Emergency and Safety plan as well as the fully working cameras which have been installed on campus.  Following the Association meeting the Virtual Business Team gave a presentation on their work this year! The 2015-2016 SPHS PTSA Board was nominated and elected and that the next forum will be a student run forum on April 27. We look forward to two more PTSA forums this year.


A big “Thank You” for the April PTSA Forum

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On April 27, a diverse group of SPHS Students participated in our first-ever student-run forum, “What Teens Wish Their Parents Knew About Them”. PTSA would like to say THANK YOU for sharing your honesty and insights!  Thank you Ms. Cutler for facilitating this event!

More information about the Forum can be viewed here:

Next PTSA Forum 4/27: “What Teens Wish Their Parents Knew About Them”

Mark your calendar for our next forum, April 27: 7:00-8:00 p.m: “What Teens Wish Their Parents Knew About Them” held in the high school library. Don’t miss this first-ever student-run forum that will focus on things our children wish they could share with us but feel they can’t. A cross-section of students from the high school will discuss trust, communication, and pressure to succeed as they clue parents in to their top concerns and issues in life. Prepared with the help of English/ELD teacher Jennifer Cutler, this evening will surprise you, inform you, and give you concrete tips on how to have a closer relationship with your children from the mouths of teens just like yours (or maybe they will even be yours!). Don’t miss this illuminating chance to hear from real-life teens!

Questions? Please contact Alison Bell Rainey at Hope to see you all there!