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Granite Bay Today

The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

Is religious and political extremism on the rise in local school boards? A case study on Rocklin Unified School District

The Rocklin Unified School District is spending an additional quarter of a million dollars on their legal fees this year, mostly attributable to the legal disputes with the California Department of Education.

This article is an update to “What we know about the parental notification policy” and part of the Gazette’s observance of the discussions of parental notification policies at local school districts, including Roseville Joint Union School District – which Granite Bay High School is part of – and the Rocklin Unified School District (RUSD). 

The California Department of Education (CDE) released a letter on Feb. 1st  stating that they will be investigating the RUSD’s Parental Notification Policy. The policy mandated that parents be alerted if their child requests to change their pronouns or names in the school system or use a bathroom that does not align with their biological sex. 

In the CDE’s letter, they stated that the notification policy violated Sections 200 and 220 of the California Education Code which determine “no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code.” 

The RUSD passed the parental notification policy, also known as Administrative Regulation (AR) 5020 Parent Rights and Responsibilities #21, at the Sept. 6 board meeting. California Attorney General Rob Bonta criticized the policy on Sept. 7, writing in an official press release that the “Rocklin Unified (School District) has chosen to endanger (student) civil rights by adopting a policy that forcibly outs them without consideration of their safety and well-being.”

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The press release states that RUSD Board Members were informed beforehand in this letter of the legal and financial repercussions the district could face and they were “urge(d) … to consider the harms and negative impacts to children in (their) district if (they) take a similar approach and reject Administrative Regulation 5020 Parent Rights and Responsibilities #21.”

The CDE additionally stated in their letter that “(the policy) does not expressly or implicitly provide any educational or school administrative purpose justifying either form of discrimination (outlined in Sections 200 and 220 of the California Education Code).”

With this consideration, the CDE gave notice to RUSD Superintendent Roger Stock that as of Feb. 1st, five days were allotted for the district to alert all staff that the policy is invalid and not to be implemented.

It has been more than two months since this notice. 

At the RUSD board meeting on Feb. 7th, the board made the following statement: “By a four (to) one vote, the board gave direction to the superintendent to file a request for reconsideration with the California Department of Education relating to the investigation report from the Education Equity Uniform Complaint procedure office that was issued on Feb. 1st.”

The board faced backlash from the community on their decision to fight the CDE, specifically aimed at Board President Tiffany Saathoff, who is a former Destiny Church employee and current Chief of Staff for Republican Representative Joe Patterson.

Since Saathoff is employed by Patterson, there is skepticism among Rocklin parents as to whether or not he influenced RUSD’s decision to draft and pass their version of the parent notification policy, as the RUSD act bears striking resemblance to Patterson’s version.

At a board meeting on March 6th, RUSD parent Millie Yan said, “You’re doing this because of religion. The motivation is through the American Evangelical council agenda to insert Destiny church’s religious beliefs and practices in public schools, in some so-called holy war for biblical justice.”

You’re doing this because of religion”

— Millie Yan

Yan goes on to reference Tanner DiBella, Marketing & Art Director for Destiny Church and founder of the American Council. DiBella and Saathoff have both been involved in the American Council, whose advocacy statement says, “We mobilize millions of concerned parents, grandparents, pastors, and Christians to lobby their elected officials. We build an important bridge between policy makers and their religious constituents.”

The American Council has provided significant monetary support to RUSD board members who were in favor of the policy. They also list significant resources on their website addressing LGBTQ+ youth, not limited to books such as “The Journey Out: How I Followed Jesus Away from Gay” and “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.”

The Gazette corresponded with DiBella for his responses to Yan.

“The role of any school board is to represent the local community in their oversight of the school district,” Dibella said. “To suggest that the school board should not heed the concerns of religious parents is absurd. Parents have a right to know what’s happening in the lives of their children, and any policy that would restrict that right should be dismantled.”

All public comment speakers at the board meeting advocated against adopting the notification policy, with some voicing concerns as to the funding allocated toward it. 

The adopted budget for the 2023/24 RUSD fiscal year for legal services was $482,633. The adopted budget has increased by almost a quarter of a million dollars to $714,612, much of this attributed to the board’s decision to revamp their policy and take the CDE to court. This can be found under Monthly Accounting Summary posted to the board agendas under ‘Action Items – Consent Calendar, 8.7.

“Other parents and I are focusing on what the board’s unnecessary legal battles are costing students, from larger class sizes to outdated materials to lack of improvements for school buildings,” Harley Larson, speaker at the board meeting, said. “At a previous meeting the district said the recent storms cost over $100k in repairs.” 

The Gazette corresponded with members of the Rocklin High School paper The Flash – Radian Hong, Saraswathi Murugan, and Cassiopeia Le. They interviewed California Assemblyman Bill Essayli, who spoke in support of the policy.

“This is a fight we will take, and it’s a fight we want, and we will take it to the Supreme Court,” Essayli said. 

This is a fight we will take, and it’s a fight we want, and we will take it to the Supreme Court.”

— California Assemblyman Bill Essayli

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About the Contributor
Audrey Baime
Audrey Baime, Bounds Broken Editor
Audrey Baime is the Bounds Broken editor on Granite Bay Today. This is her first year on the Granite Bay Today staff.

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    Ollie SkeltonApr 5, 2024 at 12:18 pm

    This bill can potentially be so dangerous for the students- I can’t believe it’s being reconsidered. Students should be able to feel safe expressing themselves at school- especially if they can’t at home. Thank you for this informational article.

  • N

    Nikolas CastilloApr 2, 2024 at 9:45 am

    I liked this