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Submitted by on 1, November 23, 2009 – 6:00 amNo Comment

020509_18291Alameda Unified staff is recommending a new set of anti-bullying lessons for the district’s third, fourth and fifth graders and a reading list that could replace controversial anti-gay bullying lessons the School Board okayed on a 3-2 vote this past May.

Staff is also recommending the board expand its anti-bullying work into the district’s middle and high schools this coming spring and that it approve a new anti-harassment policy. (All of the docs are here.)

If approved by the board, the Steps to Respect lesson plans would replace the district’s existing Caring School Community in grades 3-5. The existing Caring School Community lessons would still be taught in kindergarten through second grade.

In the place of anti-gay bullying lessons that came to be dubbed Lesson 9, the district would create a list of books to be taught to all of the Island’s elementary school students that would reflect different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and disabilities. That list is to be prepared and then adopted by the board in February.

The new lessons would be ready for all the district’s students for the 2010-2011 school year.

The recommendations were generated by a teacher committee and a 26-member community advisory committee that included Lesson 9 proponents and opponents, including participants in a campaign to recall School Board Trustees Tracy Jensen, Ron Mooney and Nielsen Tam for voting in favor of the Lesson 9 curriculum and others who are suing the district for the right to opt their children out of the lessons.

The school district has asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge to wait for the board to make a decision on the new lessons before determining whether he will issue a writ to allow parents in the district to opt their children out of Lesson 9. A hearing on the writ is scheduled for December 1; the board is slated to make a decision on the new lessons on December 8.

Attorneys for the parents who are suing the district are opposing the request. Meanwhile, four of the parents who were parties to the suit have dropped out of it.

Members of the community advisory committee were told to work toward a consensus on what would be taught, with the standard being that the lessons were something they could “live with.” Their recommendations to the teacher committee included the existing curriculum, Steps to Respect and a similar program for grades K-2, a more literature-based program and a program that focused on diversity and equality issues rather than bullying.

Steps to Respect is designed by the Seattle-based nonprofit Committee for Children. According to their website, their programs are used by 25,000 schools around the globe.

The board approved Lesson 9 in May after hundreds of parents turned out to offer both support and condemnation for its teachings. But district staff recommended in August that the board consider new lessons because they said the existing ones didn’t do enough to address bullying based on race, religion and other factors.

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