Author Archives: DCG

San Francisco elementary school adopting gender-neutral bathrooms

What could possibly go wrong?

bathroom

SF Gate: Miraloma Elementary started removing the circles, triangles and stick-figure signs from restrooms at the start of this school year, in part to acknowledge six to eight students who don’t fit traditional gender norms — kids who range from tomboys to transgender, said Principal Sam Bass.

The decision follows a national trend in recognizing the needs of transgender people, a movement that accelerated when Olympian and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner changed her name from Bruce.

In schools across the country, though, bathrooms have become a battleground for transgender rights. On Monday, more than 100 high school students walked out of class in a small Missouri town to protest the use of the girls’ restrooms and locker room by a transgender teen.

So far, bathrooms in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms at Miraloma, as well as a centralized bathroom, are gender-neutral. The school will phase in the other restrooms used by older children over the next few years, including outside bathrooms with multiple stalls.

How that will happen and how much it will cost is still in question, but the community is committed to getting it done, Bass said. “There’s no need to make them gender-specific anymore,” he said, adding there has been no pushback from parents. “One parent said, ‘So, you’re just making it like it is at home.’”

Many schools across the country have gender-neutral, single-stall bathrooms available for transgender and other students, and Berkeley Unified is designating at least one at each school. Gender-neutral bathrooms, she said, were the thing her son was most excited about at school this year.

A 2013 California law requires schools to allow students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity, a policy San Francisco passed 10 years earlier.

But it’s rare for schools to remove the boy-and-girl stick figures from all restrooms, said Alison Pennington, pro bono attorney for the Transgender Law Center in Oakland.

At Miraloma, parents started raising the issue to address the needs of students who didn’t fit perfectly into one gender or the other.

One first-grader was born a boy and identifies as a boy, but prefers to look like a girl, with long hair and traditionally female clothing, said his mom, Jae, who gave only her first name out of concern for her son’s safety. “I think most people don’t think about how difficult it can be, going to the bathroom for someone like my son,” she said.

She said that when her son went to summer camp, he chose not to face potential challenges by peers in either the boys’ or girls’ bathroom, and instead went in his pants. Embarrassed, he isolated himself from other campers, she said. “He was just struggling with it quietly,” Jae said. Now, “he can just use the restroom without thinking about it.”

Ari (l) and Ella (r)/The Chronicle Photo

Ari (l) and Ella (r)/The Chronicle Photo

Ari Braverman, 6, is also excited about the gender-blind bathrooms. Ari is a boy but doesn’t fit into boy stereotypes. He wears boys and girls clothes and doesn’t discriminate between pink and blue toys, his parents said. He wore dresses for a couple of years and now, “He still rocks the gold lamé stretch pants,” said his mom, Sarah Mattison-Earls.

“As parents, you eventually realize it’s not your job to change your child’s personality,” said Ari’s dad, Gedalia Braverman. “It’s not my job to identify and pigeonhole my children’s genders, and certainly it’s not the school’s.”

The school district’s responsibility is to create a safe environment for all students so they can learn and thrive, said Kevin Gogan, the district’s director of safety and wellness. That, he said, means accepting and accommodating the 1 percent of all middle and high school students who identify as transgender — who add up to more than 300 students.

While bathrooms have become a focus, they aren’t the only issue for transgender students, said Alison Gill, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, a political action committee that advocates for LGBT rights. “It’s really essential that schools protect them from discrimination and harassment” in all its forms, she said.

While few schools across the country are taking the gender-neutral leap like Miraloma, school communities are starting to have conversations about bathrooms for students who don’t fit traditional boy or girl molds, Pennington said. “The schools are really listening to the students, and responding to what their needs are,” she said.

Ella Braverman, Ari’s 6-year-old twin sister, loves the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms. If someone doesn’t refer to either gender, they might not be sure which bathroom to use,” said Ella, as she sat next to her brother. “I think it’s nice because then people don’t have to be separated just to go into bathrooms,” Ari said. “It’s just easier to go to the bathroom if there’s just a bathroom.”

genders

DCG

U.S. suspects more freed Guantanamo inmates returned to battlefield

Shocker, not.

Obama-laughs--300x199

Reuters: The number of detainees freed from the U.S. Guantanamo detention camp who are suspected of “re-engaging” with militant groups overseas increased over the first six months of 2015, the Obama administration said on Thursday.

Figures released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence showed that, as of July this year, of 121 detainees released since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, six were confirmed to have gone back to the battlefield and a further six were suspected of having done so.

Figures released in January had shown that Obama had released a total of 115 Guantanamo inmates, six of whom had returned to the battlefield, but only one of whom was then “suspected of re-engaging.”

The data did not identify any individual detainees. The detention facility for terrorism suspects at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, which opened after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, now holds 116 prisoners.

The administration of Obama, a Democrat, has said the number of those who returned to fight after being transferred out of Guantanamo under his presidency is lower than under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, who set up the facility.

Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo before he leaves office in January 2017 but he is hampered by a slow bureaucratic process and by laws passed by Republicans in Congress barring the transfer of detainees to prisons on U.S. soil.

Obama is due to submit a report to Congress soon outlining a new plan for closing the facility.

h/t Right Scoop

DCG

Deal requires California state workers to pay ahead for retiree health care

This is a start yet will barely put a dent in the $71.8 BILLION unfunded liability.

kick the can down the road

Sacramento Bee: Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has reached a tentative deal with a key employee union that would require state engineers to contribute toward their retirement health care benefits, likely establishing a template that will be applied to other state employee unions to help reduce a growing financial liability.

Under the three-year agreement, which still must be ratified by the union’s members and the Democratic-dominated Legislature, the Professional Engineers in California Government in mid-2017 would have to begin paying one-half of 1 percent of their pre-tax salaries into a fund to chip away at the fiscal millstone.

The contribution, including the dollar-for-dollar match by the state, would rise to 2 percent of the workers’ salary by July 2019, though a union spokesman noted that the group is scheduled to return to the bargaining table in early 2018.

For employees hired after Jan. 1, the deal lengthens from 20 years to 25 years the amount of time it would take to become fully vested in the retiree health care program. And the amount the plan would pay for those employees would be reduced from 100 percent for primary beneficiaries and 90 percent for dependents to 80 percent for both.

The Brown administration did not comment on the deal. But it represents a victory for the Democratic governor, who wanted current state employees to begin paying for retiree health care and future employees to have more modest benefits.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen six years ago became the first state employee union to agree to help fund retiree health benefits.

While the engineers’ tentative contract does not technically affect the other unions because they bargain separately, generally agreements reached earlier tend to establish limits for later pacts. Terms of the deal are likely to be applied to three other state worker bargaining units without contracts and more than a dozen others whose contracts expire next year, ultimately affecting the entire state workforce.

The new payment toward health care could be at least partially offset by raises. The engineers’ deal – retroactive to July 2 – gives the union’s 13,000 members a 5 percent raise in July 2016 with a 2 percent raise one year later. It is set to expire on June 30, 2018.

Last year, then-Controller John Chiang pegged the unfunded liability of the state providing health and dental benefits for its retirees at $71.8 billion as of mid-2014. The balance is particularly burdensome because unlike guaranteed public employee pensions, which are funded as employees remain on the job, the state only covers what’s needed to pay for the costs as they come due.

Bruce Blanning, the engineers union’s executive director, cited the pension issue in describing how the negotiating team approached the new contribution. In 2011, most state workers began paying an additional 3 percent toward their retirement benefits, a figure offset by employee raises.

“I think it’s a reasonable ask,” Blanning said of the health care piece. “The administration wanted to start jointly putting aside money … to build up a fund, and from our end of it, (we thought) ‘OK, that’s an understandable objective.’”

Unionized state engineers are among the highest-paid employees in government, with regular annual pay averaging $94,147 for calendar 2014, according to state payroll data. They last received a 3.3 percent raise on July 1.

The engineers union released news about the raises to the media on Monday. It waited until Tuesday, however, to publicly disclose the new out-of-pocket costs because it wanted to break that news directly to its members first.

Some agreements contain “most-favored nation” clauses that allow a union to reopen talks if a later contract with another group is more generous. The engineers’ contract, however, does not contain such a clause.

See also:

DCG

Two hundred classmates (and their parents) protest at decision to let transgender boy use the girls’ bathrooms in Missouri

These kids still understand basic biology.

transgender

Daily Mail: Almost 200 high school students in Missouri walked out of their classes to protest one a transgender student in senior year being allowed in the girls’ bathroom.

Members of the Hillsboro High School in Hillsboro, Missouri, ditched two hours of lessons to object to Lila Perry, a 17-year-old senior, being granted access to female bathrooms. Perry, who started identifying as transgender earlier this year, was using the female facilities to change for gym classes, which upset many other girls at the school.

They objected that Perry, who has not had any gender reassignment therapy, is still biologically male, Fox News reported.

transgender2

Perry, who wears a wig, makeup and skirts to school, used to use a unisex facilities meant for staff – but decided for this academic year she wanted to be allowed in the girls’ bathrooms.

She said: ‘I’m not going to expose myself. I’m not a pervert. I’m a transgender woman. I’m a girl. I’m just in there to change, do my business, and… if they have any questions about being transgender, they are more than welcome to talk to me, and I’ll be happy to explain it.’

One student, Sophie Beel, told local station Fox 2 St Louis: ‘I find it offensive because Lila has not went through any procedure to become female, putting on a dress and putting on a wig is not transgender to me’.

The unrest comes as transgender issues are taking a higher profile on the national stage, partly thanks to the highly public transition of Caitlyn Jenner from her former identity as Bruce.

According to the St Louis Post-Dispatch, the protest lasted for two hours before school officials told students to go back inside.

During the demonstration, Perry was locked in a staff member’s office because there were fears for her safety.

The paper reported that some of the students protesting supported Perry’s right to use the bathroom she wants to, though most were in opposition. Tammy Sorden, a mother of a Hillsboro High student, said: ‘The girls have rights, and they shouldn’t have to share a bathroom with a boy.’ She said she objected to Perry being given what she asks for ‘while the girls just have to suck it up’.

The School Board also organized a meeting to deal with the situation, which attracted a large crowd of parents last Thursday, where school officials pointed out that denying fair access to a transgender student could bring reprisals from the federal government.

Perry has since dropped gym class due to the outcry, but still intends to use female bathrooms.

special snowflake

DCG

Sacramento gets a ‘D-plus’ in small business survey, and it’s an improvement

You get the best thing on earth when you consistently vote democrat.

lauren bacall

Sacramento Bee: Sacramento earned a “D-plus” grade in an annual survey measuring small-business friendliness among cities nationwide, an improvement from the three previous years, when Sacramento received an “F” grade.

In a report released Tuesday, Sacramento ranked 85th among 95 U.S. cities, according to San Francisco-based Thumbtack, an online marketplace to help consumers hire professionals for special projects.

This year, Sacramento received failing grades in seven of 10 categories, including employment, regulations and health/safety. Sacramento’s top grade was “C” in the training/networking programs category.

“Sacramento small businesses tell us the regulatory environment is one of the worst in the country and needs to improve if the city wants to be a great place to start and run a small service business,” said Jon Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack.

As it did last year, California received an “F” grade in 2015. The survey ranked the top five most business-friendly states as Texas, New Hampshire, Utah, Louisiana and Colorado, respectively.

Thumbtack’s results were based on interviews with nearly 18,000 small-businesses owners nationwide, including 209 in Sacramento.

DCG

Japan’s worst day for teen suicides. “Collective thinking” part of the problem?

japanese youthJapan’s “killer collectivism” has been around for some time.

CNN: Nanae Munemasa was at elementary school when the bullying started. The 17-year-old student says she was beaten by boys with broom sticks, slapped in the girls’ bathroom, and even attacked during a swimming lesson. “I was the last one to get out of the pool,” she said. “A brush flew out of nowhere and it hit me underwater. I nearly drowned. I had a huge bump on my forehead.”

Nanae started skipping school, and even thought about taking her own life.

Suicide spike

She’s not alone. More Japanese school pupils commit suicide on September 1 each year than on any other date, according to figures collated by Japan’s suicide prevention office over a period of more than 40 years.

The grim spike in the statistics is linked to the typical start date of the new school term after the summer holiday has ended. “The long break from school enables you to stay at home, so it’s heaven for those who are bullied,” Nanae said. “When summer ends, you have to go back. And once you start worrying about getting bullied, committing suicide might be possible.”

Japan has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, and it is the leading cause of death among those aged 15-39. The government’s figures show that in total 18,048 under-18s took their own lives between 1972 and 2013.

Nanae said she became a target for bullies after she transferred schools for a short time before returning — meaning she was branded as a truant. When the bullying worsened, she considered suicide, but did not go through with it. “I thought that actions such as cutting my wrist would cause trouble for my parents, and committing suicide would not solve anything.”

collectivism

Collective thinking

In the end, Nanae decided to stop going to school and stayed at home for nearly a year.

Nanae’s mother, Mina Munemasa, was supportive of her daughter’s decision. “Nanae was saying things like, ‘If I jump off the Tokyo Tower, I think I can fly,” Mina said. “I don’t think school is a place where you have to risk your life to go.”

Nanae thinks the Japanese education system’s focus on collective thinking is at the root cause of the problem.

“In Japan, you have to fall in line with other people. And if you cannot do that, you’re either ignored or bullied,” she said. “You are required to have a unified opinion, and it crushes the uniqueness every person has. But that uniqueness is not something to destroy.”

Some experts agree. Child psychiatrist Dr. Ken Takaoka said the suicide rate increases when school restarts because schools “prioritize collective (action). Children who do not get along in a group will suffer.”

Living hell

To raise awareness of the issue, a Japanese non-profit organization, Futoko Shimbun, is even printing a newspaper for children who stay home to avoid bullying. Keiko Okuchi, one of the organization’s representatives, said the problem is exacerbated by a culture that dictates that going to school is the only option. “It is a living hell for children who know that they’ll be bullied at school, yet they have no other choice but to go,” she said.

Now, Nanae has returned to her studies and is also singing in a pop band called Nanakato along with her brother. Nanae hopes that one day they will have enough fans to fill Tokyo’s famous arena Budokan, and play their music in a foreign country.

Nanae is also trying to help others being bullied by writing a blog about what she went through. “It would be great if (the blog) helps at least one person stop thinking about committing suicide,” she said.

Nanae’s mother said her daughter’s time on the Internet was a key factor in helping her get through the bullying. “By creating connections with people in Japan as well as other countries, she was able to regain her confidence,” Mina said. “Adults tend to say that the Internet is dangerous but there are definitely some children who are saved by it.”

DCG

Professors threaten bad grades for saying ‘illegal alien,’ ‘male,’ ‘female’

illegal

That’s progressive “higher education” for you.

Campus Reform: Multiple professors at Washington State University have explicitly told students their grades will suffer if they use terms such as “illegal alien,” “male,” and “female,” or if they fail to “defer” to non-white students.

According to the syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ “Women & Popular Culture” class, students risk a failing grade if they use any common descriptors that Breikss considers “oppressive and hateful language.”

The punishment for repeatedly using the banned words, Breikss warns, includes “but [is] not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and— in extreme cases— failure for the semester.”

Breikss is not the only WSU faculty member implementing such policies. Much like in Selena Breikss’s classroom, students taking Professor Rebecca Fowler’s “Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies” course will see their grades suffer if they use the term “illegal alien” in their assigned writing.

stupidity

According to her syllabus, students will lose one point every time they use the words “illegal alien” or “illegals” rather than the preferred terms of “‘undocumented’ migrants/immigrants/persons.” Throughout the course, Fowler says, students will “come to recognize how white privilege functions in everyday social structures and institutions.”

In an email to Campus Reform, Fowler complained that “the term ‘illegal alien’ has permeated dominant discourses that circulate in the news to the extent that our society has come to associate ALL unauthorized border crossings with those immigrants originating from countries south of our border (and not with Asian immigrants, for example, many of whom are also in the country without legal documents and make up a considerable portion of undocumented immigrants living in the country).”

“The socio-legal production of migrant illegality works to systematically dehumanize and exploit these brown bodies for their labor,” Fowler continued.

White students in Professor John Streamas’s “Introduction to Multicultural Literature” class, are expected to “defer” to non-white students, among other community guidelines, if they want “to do well in this class.” In the guidelines in his syllabus, Streamas elaborates that he requires students to “reflect” on their grasp of history and social relations “by respecting shy and quiet classmates and by deferring to the experiences of people of color.”

Streamas—who previously generated controversy by calling a student a “white shitbag” and declared that WSU should stand for “White Supremacist University”—also demands that students “understand and consider the rage of people who are victims of systematic injustice.” Later in the syllabus, Streamas goes even further and accuses Glenn Beck of being an “insensitive white.”

Several other WSU professors require their students to “acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist” or that “we do not live in a post-racial world.”

Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Campus Reform he considers such requirements to be contradictory, even given the sensitive nature of the courses. “It is notable that one of the syllabus provisions warns: ‘The subject material of this class is sensitive and controversial. Strive to keep an open mind.’ How are students supposed to approach these sensitive and controversial materials at all, let alone to keep an open mind, if they have to fear that a misconstrued statement, or one that unreasonably offends a classmate will lead to a grade reduction or even removal from class?”

Neither Breikss nor Streamas replied to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

DCG