California/Hawaii Snapshot

California/Hawaii Region, november 2017

FROM YOUR REGIONAL DIRECTOR

Fires, Laws, and Strategy
Several schools have called or emailed the regional office to inquire about how they can help schools impacted by the fires. We have asked schools in the impacted areas to communicate their needs to us. Here are the schools and their needs. Please contact the school leader if you would like to help them:  

  • Happy Time Preschool & Daycare, 1135 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95405. Melinda Keena, director. The school has financial needs as they already had low enrollment, and the fires forced them to be closed for one week. One school father lost his home and all possessions.  
  • Harvest Christian School, 3700 Lakeville Hwy #210, Petaluma, CA 94954. Jon Wraith, principal. The school facility was spared, but staff members and families were impacted by the fires. They request prayer.  
  • Rincon Valley Christian School, 4585 Badger Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95409. Paul Eggenberger, head of school. The campus is fine, but many staff and families lost their homes, and others are still on mandatory evacuations. They are flooded with food and supplies. Their need is for financial support as a result of being closed down by the fires.  

Legislative Update This information was previously emailed to member schools. New information since the mid-October email is in italics.

AB 569 Discrimination: Reproductive Health We are pleased that Governor Brown vetoed this bill, which had significant implications beyond birth control and would have made portions of a Christian school's employment policies regarding Christian Lifestyle Standards illegal and required schools to insert an employee "handbook notice of the employee rights and remedies under the provisions of this bill." See the Governor's veto message.   

AB 500 Employee codes of conduct: employee interactions with pupils This bill, signed by the Governor, requires public school districts and schools conducting private school instruction at the elementary or high school level, as specified, that maintain a section on employee interactions with pupils in an employee code of conduct to, commencing July 1, 2018, provide a written copy of the section on employee interactions with pupils in the code of conduct to the parent or guardian of each enrolled pupil at the beginning of each school year. Commencing January 1, 2018, a school must post the section on employee interactions with pupils in its code of conduct, or provide a link to it, on each of its websites or, if a school of a local educational agency does not have its own website, on the local educational agency's website in a publicly accessible manner. The bill would also provide that a local educational agency may satisfy the individual parent or guardian notification requirement by including a copy of the section on employee interactions with pupils in its code of conduct with other specified notifications that are required at the beginning of the first semester or quarter of the regular school term. Read the full text of the bill.

We have received several inquiries about this law and what schools will be required to do. Here is an attorney response from Liebert Cassidy Whitmore: "AB 500 will go into effect January 1, 2018, adding section 44050 to the Education Code. All we can tell from the text of the bill is that schools must make available to parents and post on their public websites any sections of the employee code of conduct that relates to student/teacher interactions. While I take your point that such a description is rather broad, I looked at the legislative history, and it seems what the bill is focused on is behavior involving inappropriate interactions. One example given in the legislative history was rules that prohibit one-on-one meetings with the door closed, or prohibit sending personal texts or emails to students. The behaviors being targeted mainly focus on fears of sexual misconduct or impropriety. A previous version of the bill that required the entire code of conduct to be published was vetoed, with the Governor saying that is too broad and does not really address the concern in question here.  

The law makes clear that schools do not have to create such policies if they do not exist, but, if they do, the policies must be given to parents and posted online. The law does not provide for any penalties for non-compliance. However, the law does require this and even if there is not a set penalty under the law, the standard sets a required best practice. A school does not want to end up in a situation where inappropriate teacher-student interactions occurred and the school did not comply with this law. Of course, as with any new law, we still have some questions about what this does or does not cover. But I think for now, the schools should make a genuine effort to determine which policies in their code of conduct (or similar set of rules) pertain to inappropriate interactions with students and focus on those policies."   

AB 978 Employment safety: injury and illness prevention program Governor Brown vetoed this bill, which would have added administrative requirements to employers, including private schools, related to their injury and illness prevention program. Read the Governor's veto statement.   

AB 1565 Work hours: overtime compensation: executive, administrative, or professional employees This bill has been moved to inactive status. It would have shortened the timeline for employers to increase the state's minimum monthly salary equivalent to either $3,956 or an amount no less than twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment, as defined, whichever amount is higher. The current statewide or local minimum wage and salary regulations are unchanged.

SB 63 Unlawful employment practice: parental leave Existing law, the Moore-Brown-Roberti Family Rights Act, or California Family Rights Act (CFRA), makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer, as defined, to refuse to grant a request by an eligible employee to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period (1) for reason of a child born to, adopted by, or placed for foster care with, the employee, (2) to care for the employee's parent or spouse who has a serious health condition, as defined, or (3) because the employee is suffering from a serious health condition rendering him or her unable to perform the functions of the job.   This new law prohibits an employer, as defined, from refusing to allow an employee with more than 12 months of service with the employer, who has at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period, and who works at a site in which the employer employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles, to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child's birth, adoption, or foster care placement. The bill would also prohibit an employer from refusing to maintain and pay for coverage under a group health plan for an employee who takes this leave. Read the full text of the law.  

SB 179 The Gender Recognition Act This bill, signed by the Governor, allows individuals to change their gender based upon their perceived gender rather than biological gender. Existing law permitted this change with certification of a physician that an individual was in the process of undergoing a gender change, but that will no longer be required. New California birth certificates, driver's licenses, and organ/tissue donor cards are required to show one of three gender options: male, female, or nonbinary. The bill requires the permission of at least one parent to change the gender of a minor and partially addresses what will happen when parents disagree about the gender of their child. Read the full text of the bill.  

There are legal implications for school admissions policies, athletic programs, gender-based co-curricular programs, restrooms, and other facility related matters (changing areas and other areas where privacy would be expected). Member schools are encouraged to examine their Statement of Faith and student policy and consider including language that expresses their biblically based religious convictions and how they will address these matters in the day-to-day operation of their schools. I encourage you to review and consider the ACSI Statement of Faith, item #9, and the Alliance Defending Freedom's Gender Identity Model Policy for Students.  

Remember that, in addition to support from the California/Hawaii regional team, part of your ACSI member benefit includes free access to ACSI's in-house legal counsel, Philip Scott, and the director of Legal and Legislative Affairs, Dr. Tom Cathey. We all want you to know that we are available to serve you.  

Strategy for Impacting the California Legislature We all have a choice to make about our response to elected officials who make decisions with significant consequences upon our communities, schools, and daily lives. We encourage every ACSI member school to establish relationships with their local elected officials by visiting their field offices, meeting their staff, and staying in contact with them. One way to do this is to invite the elected officials to speak at your school. If you are concerned about what they might say, invite them to lead a flag salute or perform some other scripted responsibility during a school event (an event with one of your larger school audiences will communicate there is value to the elected official in being engaged with your school). A recent Washington Post article co-authored by the president of Biola University and the Chairman of the California assembly LGBTQ Caucus illustrates how developing relationships with elected leaders, including those with whom you have significant disagreements, is a practical way to potentially influence decisions in the state capitol. More importantly, this is a way to represent Christ to community leaders.  

Vance Nichols, head of school at Alta Loma Christian School, recently shared the following story: "I began serving today in a voluntary capacity on the Private School Advisory Committee of our State Assemblyman. Although I had not previously met the Assemblyman, I took the opportunity to speak with him about SB 179 The Gender Recognition Act, expressing to him our concerns as a faith-based institution and as a small business. He was extremely approachable, and we had a very open and substantive discussion. The result was that he is going to explore the potential ramifications further and continue our discussion. I left discovering that we have someone in Sacramento who shares our concerns and, as it turns out, has a high school child in one of our ACSI member schools. Praise the Lord for granting favor and revealing a newfound friend."   We encourage you to establish and maintain good relationships with elected officials, especially those who serve in the state Assembly and Senate. This may be the most effective way we can influence decisions being made in Sacramento.  

Flourishing Schools As a Christian school educator, do you find yourself asking tough questions like:

  • What must Christian schools do to ensure their sustainability in challenging economic and cultural times?
  • How can we prepare students to engage a rapidly changing, post-Christian culture?
  • How can we respond to increasing legal and legislative challenges to religious freedom?

If so, you're not alone. In fact, you can join the conversation that started at the Global Christian School Leadership Summit last February, where over 700 participants from K–12 schools, colleges and universities, early education programs, and non-profits engaged collaboratively to envision the future of Christian education. A new book titled PIVOT: New Directions for Christian Education captures the dialogue at the summit, with chapters devoted to each of the questions above and more. You'll find PIVOT to be an effective professional development resource—one that will set the stage for dialogue for years to come.  

May the Lord bless you, your family, and your school community during this season of Thanksgiving! "Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." Psalm 95:1–7a

Cecil Swetland, EdD
Regional Director, California/Hawaii