Teachers at Pleasanton schools discouraged from showing students inauguration

- The Pleasanton Unified School District discouraged its staff from showing the live broadcast of the presidential inauguration in classroom on Friday.

District spokesman Patrick Gannon said a letter sent to teachers on Jan. 13 was meant as guidance, but it never prevented any teacher from showing the inauguration if they wished to do so. The recommendation was issued due to the “unpredictable nature of live television” and because the controversial election has made some in the community feel marginalized.

Some seniors at Amador Valley High in Pleasanton were curious to see history unfold, regardless of the recommendation.

“I personally haven’t seen the inauguration because they didn’t show it in class, but I will watch it later myself,” Polina Titenko, a student, said.

“I did watch. I watched it on a private device streaming online,” Hanci Lei, another student, said. “I didn’t particularly agree with the candidate who got elected, but I think it’s an important part of our process to watch this peaceful transition of power.”

Some parents expected the inauguration to be shown, especially in history classes.

“I feel like it would have been a good teaching moment for them to see history being made,” Linda Johnson, a mother, said. “We’ve had a lot of different things happen in our nation and it’s an important day whether you agree with it or not.”

Gannon said the purpose behind the letter was to make sure everyone felt safe and welcome in the classroom on Friday.

The letter in its entirety is below:

Dear Colleagues:

The peaceful transition of power is a cornerstone of our constitutional democracy.  The Presidential Inauguration will occur on Friday, January 20, 2017, when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America.

Public education for all is a unique American experience of which we are proud to be a part.  Diversity of thought is not only welcome, but is central to the goal of educating students to be able to critically and compassionately navigate the complexities of our global society.

We would be remiss to ignore that this presidential election cycle and continuing events have been surrounded with controversy.  Some adults in leadership roles in our country have exhibited, and continue to exhibit, behavior that directly contradicts the conduct and respect that we honor as educators and that we take great care in teaching to our students.  This election and the divisiveness that have followed cannot be simply distilled to a matter of differing ideologies.  Schools across the nation have reported an increase in bullying and harassment following the election.  The safety and support of all PUSD students, families, and staff remain one of our top priorities.

Following the election, some families reached out to district leadership to discuss concerns about the rhetoric that has occurred on our school campuses and in our community.  In the days since, our leadership team has conducted a listening campaign with various parent, family, and student groups.  Some employees, students, and their families in PUSD tell us they are feeling disproportionately disenfranchised, unsupported, and in some cases, threatened.  Every person in our educational community is loved and valued.  It is vitally important that we maintain a safe and supportive school environment for all our students, as we know that elevated levels of student stress inhibit optimum learning.  It is equally important to communicate and maintain high expectations with regards to proper behavior and discourse for all members of our school community.  To help with this important task, we have prepared a text set of resources for staff.

While the topic of the recent presidential election remains controversial, the inauguration and associated peaceful transition of power present multiple teachable moments in the history of our country.  In light of this complexity, we would like to remind our community that the Pleasanton Unified School District school board policy provides guidance (BP 6144) around the instruction of controversial topics.  Additionally, due to the unpredictable nature of live broadcasting, the use of live video or audio footage is discouraged.  If you should choose to present pre-recorded clips of the inauguration, aligned with the District adopted curriculum, please provide an opt-out letter to your parents/guardians, taking steps to ensure that students who may feel vulnerable are provided with an alternative instructional opportunity.  While there is no legal mandate to provide an opt-out, it is in line with PUSD past practice around the teaching of controversial topics and specifically supports the goal of providing a safe and supportive learning environment for every student. 

Site leadership has been provided specific instructions as to how to ensure student safety should (student) demonstrations occur on any of our school sites.  Please contact your site administrator(s) if you have questions and/or need additional information.

We continue to appreciate and value the excellent job you do providing an outstanding educational opportunity for our students.

Respectfully,

Educational Services Team

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