Know your legal rights in the new school year

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute

By Brad Dacus

President, Pacific Justice Institute

With a new school year already under way for many of us, and just about to start for others, I wanted to make sure you were aware of the resources and help that are available from PJI. (This would also be a great e-mail to forward to your youth pastor, friends who are educators, friends with kids, and just about anyone else!)

Students have always been one of our top priorities at PJI, so it’s hard to fit all of our resources and recent successes into one e-mail. Here’s a quick list of what you need to know going into the school year:

• This past school year, PJI won two significant federal lawsuits on behalf of student evangelists. This means students should feel more confident than ever to share their faith on campus and invite their friends to church! Click here for more details and video about these cases.

• Our two major resources for students, parents and teachers are now fully online! You can visit our website and download my book, “Reclaim Your School,” and our shorter booklet on students’ rights, completely free of charge. I’m humbled to say that these two resources have helped countless families and even led to the creation of new student ministries. Make sure you’re as informed as you can be!

• Check out our opt-out forms and privacy notices to protect your children as much as possible in the public school environment.

• We now have developed school opt-out forms for 11 states, covering all of the West Coast, as well as some states in the Midwest and South.

• We have advised a number of principals, teachers and school board members this past year on handling difficult issues involving transgender students.

• We continue to fight in court for the referendum against AB 1266, the notorious school bathroom bill.

• Our attorneys drafted the new privacy initiative now in circulation, and we are a proud part of the Privacy for All coalition.

• We continue to help a number of teachers assert their rights to steer union dues away from their unions and toward causes they believe in.

• Our attorneys worked with parents to fight shocking sex ed curriculum being presented in schools by Planned Parenthood.

• We stopped two different principals in Southern California from retaliating against families who exercised their rights to decline common core testing.

• We are currently defending a school district in federal court against a lawsuit by atheist groups.

• Over the last few weeks we’ve been advising a number of families and Christian schools about their options in light of the new vaccine mandate, SB 277.

• We will be launching a major new offensive to enforce state laws protecting common core objectors in the coming weeks. (Stay tuned!)

Friends, I hope that you know we are here for you and your family in the coming school year. Each year we respond to hundreds of questions—many of them school-related — from parents, teachers, and community leaders seeking to understand their legal rights. Most of these will never make it into the headlines, but everyone is important to us.

We expect more intense battles — and incredible opportunities — in our schools this year. Please help us spread the word so students, families, and educators know where they can get help and resources this year.

Cardinal tech mentor named Teacher of the Year

Whittier High School teacher and leader of the Cardinal Computer Academy Kathleen Bailey has been named the Whittier Union High School Teacher of the year for 2015-16.

By Juliette Funes

VMA Communications

WHITTIER – Whittier High School teacher Kathleen Bailey is constantly surrounded by computers, cameras, video monitors and love from her students.
Excelling as the lead teacher of the school’s esteemed Cardinal Computer Academy since 2007, Bailey has breathed new life into the program, exposing her students to technology careers, workplace skills and community connections that have helped them develop into 21st century pros.
“I see the Cardinal Computer Academy as the best of both worlds: students who struggle and students who thrive mixing together in an atmosphere of innovation and intervention,” Bailey said. “Through the Academy, students truly develop confidence in their futures.”
Always fascinated by technology and willing to share her knowledge with others, Bailey, who has been teaching at Whittier High since 2001, is recognized for successfully bolstering the college- and career-readiness program.
As such, she has been named the Whittier Union High School District Teacher of the Year for 2015-16.
“For over a decade, Kathleen has done everything possible for her students, caring for their well-being, working with them every day and developing personal relationships to ensure their success,” said Whittier Union High School District Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson. “She also has a wonderful rapport with colleagues and is always there to support them. I want to commend this wonderful teacher for her commitment and congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.”
The announcement was made during Whittier Union’s Day One event on Aug. 10, 2015, an annual tradition in which district staff members gather to hear an inspirational message from the superintendent, see firsthand how their teamwork and collaboration has contributed to students’ success and kick off the beginning of the new school year.
“Kathleen is truly committed to her students every day, always making sure they have a good work ethic and foundation in order to be marketable,” Whittier High School Principal Lori Eshilian said. “She unequivocally changes children’s lives and they leave Whittier High ready to thrive in the field of technology.”
The Cardinal Computer Academy is a California Partnership Academy that provides students in grades 10 to 12 with rigorous academics and career technical education, a committed team of teachers and active business and post-secondary partnerships. Students develop marketable workplace skills in the technological field and have the opportunity to earn Microsoft Office certification as they explore careers.
The Academy itself has been at Whittier High for 25 years and under Bailey’s tutelage, has flourished.
“I think the most rewarding part of teaching at Whittier High is when students return and share their success stories of going on to wonderful universities and accomplishing their goals,” said Bailey, who added that the program has become popular among families of former students. “When families trust the program enough to enroll siblings and relatives in it, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment.”

 

Rio Hondo ‘Roadrunners’ battle Southland blazes

Members of Rio Hondo Fire Crew 77 – known as the Roadrunners – hike along the 14 freeway as they help combat a brushfire in the Saugus Ranger District in Santa Clarita on July 12. The team heads to anchor a fire line as smoke billows up from the blaze.

By William Diepenbrock

VMA Communications

WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College’s Fire Crew 77 was deployed at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, for the second time this summer to help the U.S. Forest Service combat a slew of brushfires across the state.

The Roadrunners crew, composed of graduates from Rio Hondo College’s Wildland Fire Academy as well as a few recent graduates from its regular Fire Academy, will activate for a two-week period, helping provide relief to professional crews.

“These deployments are a terrific way for our academy graduates to gain experience, training and earn some money while they are seeking their first jobs,” said Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “We also are proud to have them represent us on the front lines of our state’s annual battle against destructive fires.” When summer started, the crew was short of its usual 16-person complement – because other fire agencies have been aggressively scooping up Rio Hondo graduates.
“I can’t keep up with the demand,” said Rio Hondo College Wildland and Fire Coordinator Tracy Rickman, who also serves as chief of Crew 77. The academy has a 100 percent placement record, which prompted Rickman to offer a second training class in 2014-15 to see if he could provide additional graduates to meet the high demand. The effort – difficult to do since the fall fire season can sap the academy’s training staff – generated a record 65 firefighters. Forty-one were quickly snagged by wildland fire agencies.

“Nineteen graduates were hired in one fell swoop to serve in the Plumas National Forest,” Rickman said. “And veterans who take the training are typically hired incredibly fast.”

That left 14 graduates available for the crew, prompting Rickman to supplement his team with two members of Fuego Tech’s Rangers Crew 76 when it was activated July 3 for a two-week mission fighting brushfires in the Saugus River Ranger District in Santa Clarita.

While not on fires, the crew performed project work, hazard reduction, and general station maintenance, as well as participated in a rigorous daily physical training program.

For the second deployment, Rickman is supplementing his crew with graduates of Rio Hondo’s regular Fire Academy. Graduates from the academy typically seek posts with urban departments, but their training meets the certification standards for wildland service.

The college may consider a cross-training effort between the two academies in 2015-16 to help boost opportunities for wildland training.

“Rio Hondo College is known far and wide for the strength of its Fire Academy,” said Board of Education President Madeline Shapiro. “The demand for our graduates is a shining example of the recognition of that strength.”

 

Whittier Union busy over summer break

At La Serna High School, four classroom portable buildings have been added to the upper campus and five temporary classrooms are being replaced.

The Whittier Union High School District over the summer continued numerous renovation and improvement projects throughout the District, including the renovation of the school library’s entrance. The library also features new furniture funded by a donation from alumnus Willie Gordon.

By Juliette Funes

VMA Communications

WHITTIER – Renovation and improvement projects – including the construction of a new 7,000-seat stadium at California High School – are in full swing this summer at the Whittier Union High School District.

Workers are busy upgrading facilities across the district to increase school safety and provide 21st century learning environments for students, who will head back to school Aug. 12.
“We have been watching numerous projects take shape throughout our campuses, and we couldn’t be more excited to share the new renovations with our students when they come back for the new school year,” said Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson. “We are dedicated to having facilities that meet the needs of our students and allow us to operate more efficiently.”
Construction and modernization for Whittier Union’s five comprehensive high schools began in 1998, when voters passed the $98 million Measure C Bond. The bond was augmented by the $75 million Measure W bond that voters approved in 2008. The proceeds from the bonds, as well as state and federal matching grants, have greatly enhanced classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, gymnasiums and athletic fields, infrastructure and facilities districtwide.
Over the summer, student athletes at Pioneer High School have been testing out the newly completed 7,000-seat athletic complex, which boasts an artificial turf playing field, all-weather track, renovated soccer fields, outdoor tennis courts, junior varsity and varsity baseball and softball fields, and concession areas.

Dedicated as the Dick Torres Memorial Stadium and shared with Santa Fe High School, the stadium features an elevator and press box, as well as locker and weight rooms, an equipment storage room and coach’s office with restrooms in a separate structure below. Other projects planned for Pioneer include refurbishments to the gym and cafeteria.
California High School’s athletic facilities are also undergoing extensive renovation as construction crews have begun building a similar 7,000-seat football stadium. Crews broke ground on the 22-acre site soon after graduation, tore down the existing bleachers and are constructing the new athletic complex, which will include separate baseball and softball fields, as well soccer practice areas. Plans include refurbishing the outdoor basketball and volleyball courts. The stadium will also be the home field of the La Serna and Whittier high school football teams.
At Whittier High School, air conditioning and a pipe organ are being installed in the Vic Lopez Auditorium. The organ is the kind the auditorium was designed to house and is a gift from the Whittier High Alumni Association. It was manufactured in 1927 for the Fifth Avenue Theater in Seattle. Opened in 1940, the historic Art Deco venue seats 2,500 and was named after former Whittier High School CIF Football Coach and Whittier City Councilman Vic Lopez in 2001. The project is scheduled to be completed by the start of the school year.

Additionally, the front entrance to the library, which features new furniture, has been improved. Other plans include improvements to the large gym.
At Santa Fe High School, new and returning students will be served lunch in a newly remodeled cafeteria that is expected to be completed at the end of August. As part of the plan, the patio area near building B, which houses English and Special Education classrooms, was enlarged and new shade structures were constructed. Future improvement plans include renovations to the administration and music building, large gym and library.
La Serna High School’s gymnasium is currently under construction, with the addition of a new roof, bleachers and hardwood floor, drinking fountain and public announcement system, and the upgrade of the fire alarm system, as well as the installation of an air conditioning system. Additionally, four classroom portable buildings have been added to the upper campus and five temporary classrooms are being replaced. Future plans for La Serna’s athletic facilities include improved baseball and softball fields, natural turf football field with all-weather track, and upgraded soccer fields, tennis courts and pathways.

‘Dine 4 Dollars’ slated Aug. 12 feeds Whittier’s rich history

The Whittier Historical Society and Museum is hosting its “Dine 4 Dollars” fund-raising spectacular from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015 at Crepes & Grapes Café, 6560 Greenleaf Ave. in Whittier.

When you present a flier at Crepes & Grapes, 15 percent of your bill will benefit the Whittier Historical Society and Museum. This is a major fund-raiser for the museum, which preserves and protects the rich history of Whittier from its humble confines at 6755 Newlin Ave.

Fliers can be obtained at the museum or through its monthly newsletter, “The Whittier Museum Gazette.”

For more information call 562-945-3871 or visit www.whittiermuseum.org

Personal Privacy Protection Act key to children’s freedoms

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute

By Brad Dacus

President, Pacific Justice Institute

Since many of us have been traveling and wrapping up summer vacations the last few weeks, I wanted to make sure that you don’t miss out on our new, big push to protect privacy for all Californians.

If you have already signed the official petition for the Personal Privacy Protection Act, thank you! We are excited about this launch and what it will mean for our children’s future.

If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to sign and return the petition, please take just a few minutes to print off the single signature petition from our website, PJI.org. (Multiple-signature petitions are available by contacting our coalition partners at PrivacyForAll.com.)

This initiative effort may be our last, best opportunity to take back our privacy from politicians and pass on this inalienable right to our children.

Many of you worked tirelessly on our previous referendum campaign to overturn AB 1266, the notorious co-ed school bathroom bill. So what’s different this time?

• The new initiative goes further and preserves even more rights than were possible by just overturning AB 1266.

• The new, significantly lower number of signatures required for this initiative makes it much more likely to get on the ballot. If we are able to gather the same number of valid signatures we submitted for the AB 1266 referendum, this initiative will easily qualify for the ballot!

• Unlike Prop. 8, this initiative includes a provision allowing us to defend it in court when our state politicians will not.

• In the meantime, we have not given up on the AB 1266 referendum—our attorneys continue to fight in court for those signatures to be counted.
Politicians are counting on you, the silent majority, to stay silent as they take away your privacy rights. You can send them a strong message that you are not giving away your rights, just by signing and returning the official petition on our website.

Our goals for gathering signatures and enacting the Personal Privacy Protection Act are very achieveable. But we need to get off to a strong start, and we need your help to make this happen!

I don’t ask this very often, but can I also ask you to forward this e-mail to 10 friends? Let’s awaken the silent majority and change our children’s future!

Running the race …

Rio Hondo gives a one-stop leg up to veterans

WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College’s Veterans Service Office launched a one-stop service center this summer that will allow veterans of the U.S. armed forces to conveniently obtain a host of critical services that range from counseling and tutoring to financial aid and loan assistance.

Veterans make up a small, but growing percentage of Rio Hondo’s student population. “Our veterans are returning to college after making significant sacrifices on our behalf,” said Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “As such, they have special needs that go beyond those of the typical student – and we want to be sure we meet all of them to ensure their success at Rio Hondo College and beyond.”

Yvonne Gutierrez-Sandoval, Director of Financial Aid, Scholarships and Veterans Services, said the center was inspired by a desire to provide veterans with a place where they would feel most comfortable getting the services needed for their education.

“Our veterans share unique experiences – many of them traumatic – and it creates a level of comfort for them to be around other veterans who understand that,” Gutierrez-Sandoval said.

Services for veterans include: • Counseling services • A Veterans Administration education benefits certifying official • A financial aid adviser • Emergency student loans • Tutoring services • Computer lab • Information on community programs and services for veterans • Graduation cap and gown loan program.

“The transition to civilian life can be a difficult one,” added Arely Castaneda, Rio Hondo College’s newly appointed Veterans Service Center coordinator/counselor. “Providing a convenient location that meets all of a veteran’s needs helps eliminate unneeded stress. It also promotes their efforts to complete their courses and make the transition to a four-year college or new career.”

Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said the new center is part of a larger campaign launched by the college to ensure all students receive services sculpted to meet their unique needs.

“Veterans are a growing and significant element of our student population,” Shapiro said. “It is a privilege to play a role in helping them transition to their next role in our society, and any service we can offer to make the process work more smoothly benefits us all.”

Open registration for Rio Hondo College’s fall 2015 semester begins Aug. 6. The fall semester runs from Aug. 22 to Dec. 12.

For information on the college or its programs, call
562-692-0921 or visit www.riohondo.edu.

 

Pioneering athletic excellence

The Whittier Union High School District celebrated the grand opening of the Dick Torres Memorial Stadium at Pioneer High School on May 28, 2015. Pictured are, from left, Pioneer High ASB President Robert Castañeda, Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson, Board of Trustees member Dr. Ralph Pacheco, Trustee Tim Schneider, President Jeff Baird, Trustee Leighton Anderson and Santa Fe High School ASB President Steven Nuon.

Whittier Union celebrates grand opening of

Dick Torres Memorial Stadium

By Juliette Funes

VMA Communications

WHITTIER – The Whittier Union High School District unveiled its spectacular 7,000-seat football stadium at Pioneer High School – among the largest high school stadiums in the San Gabriel Valley – to the community during a grand opening ceremony on May 28.

The $17.5 million facility, built with proceeds from the $75 million Measure W facilities bond, was dedicated as the Dick Torres Memorial Stadium in honor of Richard Torres, who died in 2010 after serving more than 30 years as an educational leader and inspiration to Whittier Union students.

“We’ve been waiting with excitement for the day when we could open this district stadium and cheer on our student-athletes from the sidelines,” Whittier Union Board of Trustees President Jeff Baird said. “That day has finally arrived and I want to thank the community for supporting the need for premium athletic facilities in our schools and enhancing opportunities for our student-athletes to achieve excellence in academics and athletic competition.”

During the celebration, visitors toured the stadium, to be shared with Santa Fe High, and marveled the many improvements it will offer to the school community, including enhanced seating capacity – with 2,000 seats for visitors and seating for 5,000 for the home team – and upgrades that include renovated soccer fields, outdoor tennis courts, junior varsity and varsity baseball and softball fields, and concession areas.

Other stadium features include an elevator and press box, as well as locker and weight rooms, an equipment storage room and coach’s office with restrooms in a separate structure below. The stadium includes a nine-lane, multi-colored synthetic track that highlights passing zones, a feature found more commonly in colleges and universities, including UCLA’s famed Drake Stadium.

Torres’ wife, Mary, expressed her pride that her husband’s legacy will reach generations of students.

“Along with his own children, being an educator here was an important part of his life and allowed him to dedicate himself to helping students succeed and achieve their dreams,” she said. “It is an enormous privilege for me, our families, our children and grandchildren to see this beautiful stadium carry the Torres name. It is more than any of us could have ever hoped for.”

Torres began his Whittier Union career in 1969 as a teacher at Santa Fe, where he led the Expanded Horizons program, serving and motivating first-generation, college-going youths. He later served as Pioneer’s Assistant Principal of Business and Activities, a post he held until his retirement in 1991.

Torres continued to substitute as a teacher and administrator at every District school until his death.

Joe Duardo, a parent and community leader, lauded Torres for his role in growing the Horizons program at Santa Fe and for stressing the importance of parent involvement in increasing student success.

“Throughout his career, Dick demonstrated an uncommon dedication, enthusiasm and passion to advocate on behalf of all of the district’s students,” Duardo said. “Just as this stadium has been transformed by the renovation project, the district’s instructional program and the lives of thousands of students have been transformed, thanks to Dick Torres and the vision that he so fervently and persistently articulated.”

The Pioneer Class of 2015 will hold its graduation ceremony in the new stadium on Wednesday, June 3.

“We are elated to open this first-class athletic facility to our students who continue to distinguish themselves in the classroom and on the field,” Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson said. “To have the stadium bear the name of a man who inspired so many and left a lasting impact on everyone will serve as a reminder to this community that demographics do not determine destiny at Whittier Union.”

Professor’s final exam gets re-’buff’ed

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute

By Brad Dacus

President, Pacific Justice Institute

What would you do if your college-age daughter told you that her professor was making his students literally get naked for their final exam?

We learned this week that this scenario actually confronted a mom whose daughter attends UC-San Diego. The daughter is in a visual arts class. The professor even confirmed to local news outlets that yes, his final exam included a requirement that this and other students get naked and perform an “erotic gesture” in a candlelit room. Perhaps even more disturbingly, the professor noted that he would be taking off his clothes as well!

Why am I telling you this story? Friends … the future of our children is at stake. It’s easy sometimes to get bogged down in the rhetoric of the “culture wars” and lose sight of what we’re fighting for.

Make no mistake—if we surrender on issues like marriage, parental rights in education, and student privacy, it will get worse. Those who today are pushing radical sexualized education will not be satisfied until our children are forced to participate.

This is why PJI continues to fight for families and our young people. It’s why we continue to battle in court over the “co-ed bathroom bill,” AB 1266. It’s why we are a very active participant in the Privacy for All coalition. It’s why we developed a privacy opt-out form for K-12 schools.

Please continue to stand with us against those who (like this professor) do not have our children’s best interests at heart. I wish this young college student (who chose to remain anonymous) had reached out to Pacific Justice Institute so we could have confronted this outrage on her behalf. But I hope you will help spread the word about PJI to your family and friends so that other families who may encounter similar situations will get the help they need. As the days grow darker, may our light grow stronger!

 

Weigh in on Nelles re-use plan on Monday, May 4

WHITTIER – The city of Whittier will begin the first of four Planning Commission meetings considering the re-use of the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 4, 2015 at city hall, 13230 Penn St.

Participants may speak for three minutes during the public comments portion of the meeting.