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9th July 2024
Gov. Newsom proposes limiting cellphones in schools
Gov. Gavin Newsom is pushing for restrictions on cellphone use in schools, citing the need for students to focus on their studies. While some experts argue that smartphones contribute to mental health issues, others disagree. Bay Area districts have differing policies on smartphone use, with some allowing devices outside of instructional time. Districts like Livermore Valley Joint USD emphasize educating students on responsible cellphone use, while Fremont USD imposes stricter rules on younger students. The San Mateo Union High School District has already banned cellphone use, while the California School Boards Association believes that district leaders should have the final say. The controversy surrounding cellphone use in schools continues to spark debate among educators and parents. As Cheryl Matthews from California for Safe Technology points out, cellphone restrictions can improve academic performance, encourage face-to-face interaction, and reduce cyberbullying. The proposal to limit cellphone use in schools is a topic of interest and concern for many in the Bay Area.
Pandemic-related learning loss worsens
Pandemic-related learning loss is becoming a more significant issue, according to new data. Starting in March, California school districts will be required to have a plan in place within 10 days of an emergency that prevents students from attending classes. The plan must be operative by July 1, 2025. Failure to develop an instructional continuity plan may result in the loss of state attendance funding. The legislation also allows districts to provide attendance recovery programs during school breaks or weekends to make up for missed school days. Chronic absenteeism rates have more than doubled since the pandemic, and wildfires and flooding have also caused school closures. The legislation has been revised to remove financial penalties and focus on proactive planning. Attendance recovery programs can help reduce chronic absenteeism and regain lost funding. As COVID-19 emergency funding ends, rural schools may face financial challenges in 2024.
Setback for LGBTQ+ rights: Judge blocks anti-discrimination rule in multiple states
A federal judge in Kansas has blocked a federal rule expanding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ students from being enforced in four states and a patchwork of places elsewhere across the nation. U.S. District Judge John Broomes suggested in his ruling that the Biden administration must now consider whether forcing compliance remains "worth the effort." The rule applies in Alaska, Kansas, Utah, and Wyoming, and also to a Stillwater, Oklahoma, middle school that has a student suing over the rule and to members of three groups backing Republican efforts nationwide to roll back LGBTQ+ rights. Broomes directed the three groups to file a list of schools in which their members' children are students so that their schools also do not comply with the rule. The Biden administration rule is set to take effect in August under the Title IX civil rights law passed in 1972. Republicans have argued that the rule represents a ruse by the Biden administration to allow transgender females to play on girls' and women's sports teams. LGBTQ+ youth, their parents, health care providers, and others say restrictions on transgender youth harms their mental health and makes an often marginalized group even more vulnerable. The Department of Education did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday. Two other federal judges issued rulings in mid-June blocking the new rule in 10 other states. The rule would protect LGBTQ+ students by expanding the definition of sexual harassment at schools and colleges and adding safeguards for victims.
Parents challenge Louisiana law requiring Ten Commandments in school classrooms
Opponents of a new Louisiana law requiring that a version of the Ten Commandments be posted in public school classrooms have asked a federal court to block implementation of the requirement while their lawsuit against it progresses and before the new school year starts. A group of parents of Louisiana public school students, representing various faiths, filed the lawsuit last month, soon after Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed the new law. The lawsuit argues that the law violates First Amendment clauses protecting religious liberty and forbidding laws establishing a religion. Backers of the law argue that it doesn't violate the Constitution and that posting the Ten Commandments is appropriate and legal because they are part of the foundation of U.S. law. "The law violates First Amendment clauses protecting religious liberty and forbidding laws establishing a religion," said the lawsuit filed in federal court in Baton Rouge. The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction blocking the law and an expedited briefing and hearing schedule.
Ctrl+Alt+Teach: NEA reboots education for the AI era
The National Education Association (NEA) has voted to approve a policy statement that seeks to lay the foundation for what educators should advocate for in policies, practices, and professional development to use artificial intelligence (AI) safely and equitably in their classrooms. The policy is composed of five key principles for educators, looking particularly at: keeping students and teachers at the center of education, using evidence-based technology as an enhancement to education, the ethical development of AI and use of strong data protection practices, equitable access and use of the technology, and ongoing education. “Artificial intelligence has evolved into a permanent fixture in our communities and schools. Using these new tools equitably, fairly, and safely is essential for our nation’s educators to guide and inspire their students and classes,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “Utilizing this technology in a manner that supports invaluable face-to-face relationships between educators and students as well as effective pedagogy should always be a priority.”
Ed tech use continued to climb through 2023-24
School districts used an average of 2,739 different tools in 2023-24, an 8% jump from the previous year, according to Instructure’s LearnPlatform, an ed tech platform that helps districts research and choose digital learning products. In 2023-24, students accessed 45 different tools compared to 42 in 2022-23, while educators used an average of 49 tools in 2023-24 versus 42 the previous year. Among the 40 ed tech tools most commonly used by districts in 2023-24, 60% focused on individual learners through activities that include studying, creation, research and games. LearnPlatform also said there are signs that artificial intelligence (AI) could continue to drive investments in ed tech. To address privacy concerns, the nonprofit Future of Privacy Forum has created an AI vetting checklist for districts to ensure student data is safeguarded. LearnPlatform also suggests K-12 leaders create clear policies for AI usage that include ethical guidance regarding bias, privacy and transparency. 
District affirms the new principal of Webster Elementary School
The Santa Monica-Malibu USD Board of Education has appointed Carina Diana as the new principal of Webster Elementary School. Diana has a wealth of experience in educational leadership, having served in various roles throughout the Los Angeles area. She is known for her creative and technology-forward curriculum approach, as well as her commitment to inclusive practices. The board also discussed the performance of the district on the California School Dashboard Local Indicators, with a focus on parent engagement. The district plans to improve parent engagement through the creation of a Family Engagement Coordinator position and to prioritize seeking parent input in important decisions.
Coachella Valley residents can file for candidacy for school board seats
Residents in the Coachella Valley can now file for candidacy for school board seats. The filing period for the 2024 presidential general election will open on July 15 and close on August 9. To be eligible, candidates must be at least 18 years old, a citizen of the state, a resident of the school district, a registered voter, and not disqualified from holding a civil office. The newly elected trustees will serve four-year terms starting in December. The College of the Desert will have three trustee seats up for grabs, while Coachella Valley USD will have four seats open. Desert Sands USD and Palm Springs USD will each have three and two seats open, respectively. Interested candidates can submit their applications at the respective Registrar of Voters Offices.
Mountain House High School's SkillsUSA excels at national conference
Mountain House High School's SkillsUSA members attended the 59th Annual National Leadership & Skills Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Mountain House High sent eight students, three competitors and five delegates, to the national stage. Three state gold medalists represented Mountain House: Daksh Jain competed in Computer Programming, Neal Patalay participated in the Internet of Things and Smart Home competition, while Ibrahim Nadeem demonstrated his skills in Related Technical Math. SkillsUSA's flagship event, the National Leadership & Skills Conference, attracts elite students from throughout the nation to compete in technical and leadership competitions. It also lets students network, learn from industry professionals, and help the organization grow. 

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