California Supports Diversity with New Ethnic Studies Graduation Requirement

By California State PTA Legislation Team with the Health and Community Concerns and Education Commissions

With the governor’s signing of Assembly Bill (AB) 101 Ethnic Studies (Medina), California is the first state in the country to require that every high school student take an ethnic studies course in order to graduate. This bill, which was supported by California State PTA, requires schools to offer ethnic studies beginning with the 2025-26 school year and makes the one-semester ethnic studies course a graduation requirement beginning with the 2029-30 school year. 

Students must take a course that meets one of the following requirements:

  • A course based on the model curriculum, which was approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) in March 2021.
  • An existing ethnic studies course already offered at their high school.
  • A course that has been approved as meeting the A-G requirements for the University of California and the California State University.
  • A locally developed ethnic studies course approved by the school board or the governing body of the charter school.

The ethnic studies course requirement is important because it seeks to include voices that have not always been represented in instructional materials – voices of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. Ethnic-studies advocates cite evidence that the inclusion of voices often omitted from traditional lessons and texts can lead to more student engagement and improved general academic performance. 

School districts can use the model curriculum, adopted on March 18, 2021, by the California State Board of  Education, as a guide to new instructional materials.  AB 101 also enables school districts to create their own lesson plans. As a result, the content of ethnic studies courses may vary from district to district. Many school districts in California such as Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified already have ethnic studies courses.

The new high school graduation requirement follows last year’s Assembly Bill 1460 signed by Governor Newsom which requires California State University students to take an ethnic studies course in order to earn their university degree. An ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement has already been vetoed twice: once by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, who stated in his veto message that he was concerned about overwhelmed students and again in 2020 by Governor Newsom who vetoed the measure since the model ethnic studies curriculum had not yet been adopted.  

California State PTA supported this bill in order to provide the most comprehensive and diversified education possible for all children. Specifically, California State PTA supports curricula that develop an awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity designed to help students to develop personal worth and confidence in one’s own abilities. 

To Learn More About this Topic

The basis for PTA’s support of AB 101 includes:

Articles that provide more background and perspective:

Futureproof: A Book About Your Kids’ Futures (and Yours)

By California State PTA Family Engagement and Communication Commission

 

Futureproof, written by technology writer Kevin Roose, offers new perspectives and interesting food for thought on matters that shape the relationship between families and schools today. The book suggests “nine rules for humans in the age of automation.”  It’s an important topic if you want to ensure that your children’s education stays relevant in future job markets while also supporting their social and emotional health. As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives, at work and at home, how can we protect people from being replaced by automation and preserve our humanity?

Among the author’s more interesting insights is that rather than try to compete with computers in terms of productivity and efficiency – where the computers have the upper hand, so to speak – we should focus on developing those human skills and attributes where we do have the advantage: our creativity, our ability to make sense out of novel and chaotic situations, and our capacity to understand and personally relate to the feelings of other humans. Our future success depends on being able to do the things that the computer can’t do – things that highlight the efforts and contributions made by other people (examples include products or services described as artisanal, concierge, personal, or hand-crafted).  

PTA has a role to play

Roose recommends we “build big nets and small webs.”  The term big nets refers to the kinds of social safety programs established to protect children, youth, and families in times of crisis (a common focus for PTA advocacy efforts). PTAs themselves can be thought of as small webs since our local associations are frequently on the front lines finding creative ways to help families when they find themselves in need or distress, as recently demonstrated during the pandemic. For many members of our school communities, PTA activities and support for family engagement offered a means of resilience, encouragement, aid, and friendship during difficult times.

Recent news stories about the lack of accountability among social media companies and the implications of the content they relentlessly provide may be motivating you to reexamine technology use in your own households.  It could be time for you as PTA leaders to consider the growing influence of the digital world more broadly and decide how that should influence PTA strategies for family engagement related to the education offered in your local schools. 

Implications for what schools teach

Roose notes that while “many ideas have been proposed and tested for bringing our educational system into the twenty-first century,” most have dealt primarily with how we teach, rather than what we should teach.  His recommendations for practical skills that maximize the advantages of people over machines include:

  • Attention Guarding – Finding ways to maintain our focus despite a persistent onslaught of external forces trying to distract us.  This isn’t simply a matter of maintaining productivity but is important in our ability to exercise control over where we choose to direct our attention.
  • Room Reading – It takes emotional intelligence to be able to “read a room” – a skill that is valuable in the workplace.  Roose suggests that women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ people may be particularly adept at this as it has long been an essential skill for their success in the dominant culture. 
  • Resting – A surprising skill to cultivate is the ability to allow yourself sufficient rest to help prevent burnout and exhaustion, and to reconnect with our human selves.  Roose suggests, “In the automated future, as more of our contributions come from big breakthroughs, inspired ideas, and emotional aptitude, being well-rested is going to become even more critical.”
  • Digital Discernment – As people increasingly get their news and information from social media networks, it becomes ever more important to engage critical thinking skills to distinguish truth from fiction and to differentiate between credible sources and sponsored content.  “…It’s going to get even harder in the coming years with the rise of algorithmically generated text, realistic conversational AI, and synthetic video (‘deepfakes’) produced with the help of machine learning,” Roose cautions.
  • Analog Ethics – In an age when our value will come from our ability to relate to other people, Roose asserts that treating people well, acting ethically, and behaving in prosocial ways will remain essential to lifelong success. Schools that offer social-emotional learning programs to children are more likely to produce well-socialized, responsible adults able to cope with change.
  • Consequentialism – Organizations that create or use AI systems need to anticipate the ways these products can be misused, exploited, or gamed. Consequentialist thinking can be useful both in spotting flaws in technological systems before they cause catastrophic problems and, in other areas such as medicine, law enforcement, and human rights, being alert to where significant opportunities for error exist. Roose recommends incorporating consequentialist thinking as a standard part of STEM curriculum.

In the book’s final pages, Roose urges readers to step into the broader conversation, to “learn the details of the power structures that are shaping technological adaptation and bend those structures toward a better, fairer future.”  

This is certainly an opportunity for family and PTA engagement – to use our collective influence to help shape education, public policy, and the technological landscape to benefit children, youth, and families.

Parents Can Help Prevent Bullying

By California State PTA Health & Community Concerns Commission


October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Bullying is a serious issue at home and in school, and parents and caring adults can play pivotal roles in creating healthy, safe school and community climates.

In a 2019 publication, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that one out of five students in the U.S. said they had been bullied. Researchers have also found that bullied students are more likely to take a weapon to school, get involved in physical fights, and suffer from anxiety and depression, health problems, and mental health problems. They also suffer academically (especially high-achieving black and Latinx students). Research suggests that schools where students report a more severe bullying climate score worse on standardized assessments than schools with a better climate.

Five Tips For Parents To Help Prevent Bullying
Parents and guardians are among a school’s best allies in bullying prevention:

  • Talk with and listen to your children every day. Ask questions about their school day, including experiences on the way to and from school, lunch, and recess. Ask about their peers. Children who feel comfortable sharing experiences with their parents before they are involved in bullying are more likely to involve them after.
  • Spend time at school, especially during recess. Schools can lack the resources to provide all students individualized attention during “free” time, like recess. Volunteer to coordinate games and activities that encourage children to interact with their peers. 
  • Set a good example. Children are observing when you get angry at a waiter, another driver, etc. Model effective communication techniques, especially when they are present. As Education.com puts it, “Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is okay.”
  • Create healthy anti-bullying habits. Starting as young as possible, coach your children on both, what not to do (push, tease, and be mean to others) and what to do (be kind, empathize, and take turns). Also coach your child on what to do if someone is mean to him or to another (get an adult, tell the bully to stop, walk away and ignore the bully).
  • Make sure your child understands that bullying is not okay. Explicitly explain what it is and that it’s not normal or tolerable for them to bully, be bullied, or stand by and watch other kids be bullied.

Parents Can Help Stop Online Bullying As Well
Kids may not always recognize teasing as bullying. Some kids also may be too embarrassed or ashamed to talk to their parents about it.

That’s why it’s important to talk about online and digital behavior before your child starts interacting with others online and with devices, as this article from Common Sense Media suggests. 

Additional Resources

Click here to access the California State PTA’s bullying prevention resources, which include advice about preparing your kid for going online or getting a cell phone, and advice about what to do if you know he or she has been bullied online.

Click here to access National PTA bullying prevention resources and an informative podcast that includes strategies for supporting children who are bullied and offers advice to parents who have learned that their child is doing the bullying.

PACER provides innovative resources for students, parents, educators, and others related to bullying prevention, including a report on the latest statistics.

The Stopbullying.gov website also provides valuable information on bullying prevention.

Do you have more questions?  Email CommunityConcerns@capta.org

Taking Personal Responsibility for Cybersecurity

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

“The line between our online and offline lives is indistinguishable. In these tech-fueled times, our homes, societal well-being, economic prosperity and nation’s security are impacted by the internet,” the National Cybersecurity Alliance

The truth of that statement has really come home to families and schools in the last 18 months. We have all become increasingly dependent on the internet to learn, to connect with each other, to shop for necessities, and to stay entertained. That makes Cybersecurity Awareness Month an ideal chance for families to learn more about what they can personally do to stay safe online. 

Start With Some Basics for Individuals

It’s easy to think of cybersecurity as a topic that’s just of concern to large companies and organizations, not something individuals can do much about. A central goal of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, however, is to point out all that we can do to keep ourselves and our information safe on the internet.

For example, there’s a list of basic steps you personally can take to keep your information safe, including: 

  • Use long, unique passphrases (they needn’t be complex) that are easy for you to remember and at least 12 characters long. 
  • Use 2-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (such as a one-time code sent to your mobile device) whenever it’s offered.
  • Don’t click on links or download anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting. 
  • Keep all software on your internet connected devices current to reduce risk of infection from ransomware and malware.
  • Limit what you do on public WiFi and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services. 

These are just some of the recommendations you’ll find in this two-page guide to cybersecurity basics. You can do your part for cybersecurity awareness by sharing it with others in your PTA, your family, and your community.

Resources for Keeping Kids Safe Online

Acknowledging the increase in internet activity brought on by the pandemic, there’s also a Tip Sheet about Online Learning meant for parents and students: Security Tips for K12 Online Learning.

As kids get older, they need to take greater responsibility for their own cybersecurity. Thankfully there are some great resources available to help families have the “tech talk” about online privacy, and even a guide for helping kids learn about cybersecurity careers. These would be great resources to share. 

You’ll find all this and much more at the official Cybersecurity Awareness Month website: Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Stay Safe Online

In addition, National PTA, in collaboration with LifeLock has developed a web-based tool to facilitate parent-child conversations about being responsible with the use of technology. It’s called The Smart Talk.

Six Tips for Building Your Local PTA Leadership

Children are back in school, but for many of us it feels like we are still a long way from a full pandemic recovery. One place many PTA leaders feel that is in the volunteers on their local boards, or should we say the lack of volunteers. Filling a vacant board position or committee chair is important to your plans this year and it’s also key to building leadership for the long-term vitality of your association.

Here are some ideas for how to connect with your members and encourage them to take on a leadership role.

Hone your leadership team’s skills.

PTAs throughout California are seeking individuals who will step back into the limelight by not only joining PTA, but volunteering in some capacity to support their school and its families, and further their PTA goals.

Having knowledgeable, welcoming leaders will encourage your PTA members to join the team. Training develops officer leadership and teamwork skills, so do take the time to find and participate in any trainings available from your District PTA. But first, review Tips for Leaders from the California State PTA. 

In addition, the 2021-22 Welcome Packet local leaders received from California State PTA includes RUNNING YOUR PTA…Made Easy. This 24 page, easy to read document is your roadmap for successful goal setting, executive board and association meetings, leadership practices, officer tips, inclusivity, finances, bylaws, and calendar planning. Share it with your board via this link (or this link for the Spanish version). You can also request copies through your District PTA president. The California State PTA “Welcome Packet Homepage” includes specific items for your PTA leaders: president, treasurer, parliamentarian, communications. 

Consider doing less this year.

The executive board should consider if past supported events and fundraisers are too intimidating this first year with students back on campus. It may be wise to scale back the number of events to between three and five for the remainder of the year, and ask for participation. Also, be sure to include a social, fun event. Your community’s social well being is important, just like student social well being. Events done well will encourage others to step up.

Make participation easy.

More members may be working from home, but don’t assume they have more time. After being home bound some are hesitant socially to step out. 

Look at ways to divide the work into smaller, less threatening tasks with shorter timeframes. For example, subdivide the hospitality chair role into the events: winter, spring, and summer association meetings, Founders Day, Staff Appreciation, etc. For fundraising consider a chair for each activity. 

Refer to the California State PTA Toolkit for more than 28 suggested Job Descriptions for PTA leaders. You can adjust these to suit your goal. 

Use the buddy system to get the work done.

Every PTA association officially needs to have a president, secretary, and treasurer. If your PTA doesn’t have an executive vice president, corresponding secretary or financial secretary, these three positions, already included in the standard bylaws, were created to provide support and divide the work. Updating your bylaws is easy using California State PTA’s electronic eBylaws program to add these positions permanently. In the meantime, the president may appoint an assistant to any officer for support, with or without attendance and full voting rights at executive board meetings. Consider these guidelines when appointing committee chairs and assistants.

Expand your reach through purposeful inclusion.

Does your PTA embrace individuals included in your school community? 

If families at your school speak many languages, seek volunteers who will help engage those families. Parents of students with special needs often feel left out when they cannot leave their children at home with a child care provider. Ask your officers and school staff which tasks can be done at home by eager volunteers.

Don’t forget students have great talent and energy. Middle school and high school students can be PTA members and they can be volunteers as well. They can get a lot out of that involvement.

PTAs can and should be creative. 

More often than not, the new idea you have has been done before. Reach out and connect with nearby PTAs and your council and district PTA to share ideas and success stories and pool your resources.

It’s Tax Time for PTAs: Connect with us for help

Need help heading off tax issues before they start? Need help reaching the right contacts at the various government agencies who can help expedite processing of paperwork? We’re here for you. California State PTA has a dedicated tax support specialist available to offer tips and direct you to help. 

California State PTA also offers tax workshops/filing help at various trainings and has helped hundreds of units file their postcards and charitable trust renewals over the last few years. While we can’t file the long-form taxes for you, we are here to support you in the process.

As a part of the PTA organization, you are able to use File990.org at a discounted rate. Starting in the 2021-22 term, the 990-EZ form must be filed electronically only and this access will save you money.

Last year, the Attorney General asked for additional information from all of our postcard filing units. (PTAs that make less than $50,000 a year are eligible to file taxes by a simple electronic postcard.) The required forms can be confusing because the AG’s terminology doesn’t match up to what most people call things in their budgets/treasurer’s reports. That is why we created our annotated RRF-1 and CT-TR-1 forms. Our annotated forms help you translate the AG  information making it much easier to complete without all the stress.

It is really important that if you get a letter from any government agency, you take it seriously, but don’t panic! Contact your district PTA. They can advise you or help you get in touch with one of us at the California State PTA. 

If you have questions, a great place to start is by visiting the Tax Filing Support Center on our website. 

Help with tax filings is one compelling reason that more than 3,000 schools in California choose PTA. 

Interesting tax related fact and added benefit of your PTA status:
A special exemption for sales tax collection is granted by the state of California specifically for parent teacher organizations chartered as part of the California State PTA. You are not required to collect state sales tax on items your PTA sells because you are considered “consumers of products” you are selling. In this case, it means even though you are selling something, the profits are being consumed for your charitable purpose in your budget. Most other non-profits are not exempt and have to collect and send in sales tax to the state.
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Note: This doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay sales tax when you purchase items for your PTA, just that you don’t have to collect it on your sales.