Berkeley school board members discussed consent education and plans for altering the bell schedule at Berkeley High School, or BHS, at their regular meeting Wednesday.
BHS Dean of Students Claudia González updated the board on the BHS Sexual Harm Advisory Committee, a group of students and staff who will give feedback on Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, consent and sexual harm policies and provide peer-led consent education at BHS.
“Over the last few meetings, we’ve heard a lot about students coming forward after the fact,” board member Julie Sinai said during the meeting. “The adults in the community that they’re trying to communicate with are not being responsive to their needs or in some ways might be blaming (them).”
González also spoke about Green Dot, a program at BHS that trains students to be “upstanders” in preventing sexual harm on and off campus.
Anjuna Mascarenhas-Swan, the board’s student director, encouraged the board to consider steps to implement consent education throughout grades K-12 grades in order to expose younger students to training early on.
“Although the more severe incidents of sexual violence we see in later grades, sexual harm is occurring throughout elementary and middle school,” Mascarenhas-Swan said during the meeting. “When we allow those behaviors to foster in younger grades they just snowball.”
Following the school board’s discussion of consent education, BHS principal Juan Raygoza and vice principal Harrison Blatt presented a timeline for community engagement in transitioning BHS toward a “more humane” bell schedule to support students’ and staff’s social and emotional needs.
The board explored options such as block scheduling, where students would have fewer classes per day for longer periods, rather than six periods each day for the 2022-23 school year.
“(There is an) extreme amount of trauma and pain in our community members that we need to process,” Raygoza said during the meeting. “We need a trauma-informed school.”
The team working on the proposal plans to visit schools with similar scheduling models, collect stakeholder feedback and research the effectiveness of block scheduling models through November and December, according to Raygoza. They aim to present a proposal for board approval in March.
In response to a question from board director Ana Vasudeo about how the group will work to include multilingual families in their feedback process, Raygoza said they plan to reach out to groups often overlooked by traditional school communications.
“We need to really think about learning as depth over breadth,” Raygoza said during the meeting. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re really committed because to me one of the most important parts of the feedback was that we need the families’ support.”
Board member Laura Babitt and BUSD associate superintendent Rubén Aurelio also presented a proposed climate literacy resolution at the meeting. The resolution would develop a curriculum to ensure students graduate with an understanding of the causes and potential solutions to climate change, as well as its connection to civil rights.
The board is scheduled to vote on the resolution at their Nov. 3 meeting, according to Sarah Raney, a BUSD parent who helped develop the resolution. However, Sinai raised concerns about the resolution’s fiscal impact.
“I hope we can find ways to strengthen our current curriculum,” Sinai said during the meeting. “We can’t wait, but I also don’t know how we’re going to pay for it so that’s the ongoing issue that we still have.”