2016-12-02 / Front Page
Post-election disruptions minimal at Simi schools
SVUSD Superintendent stresses ‘inclusive culture’
Compared to some other school districts, Simi Valley Unified experienced a relatively low level of post-Election Day tension.
With Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 victory sparking walkouts and demonstrations at Los Angeles area schools, including nearby Calabasas High School in the Las Virgenes Unified School District, SVUSD braced itself for possible similar actions across its 28 campuses.
On Nov. 14 SVUSD Superintendent Jason Peplinski sent an email to district teachers and staff that read in part: “As you know, students will have or have had different reactions to the election outcome. It is our responsibility as educators to help our students understand our democratic process.
“It is important for them to know that our collective nation has chosen the next president. This can be done in the absence of discussing candidates or political parties.”
Peplinski called on faculty to teach their students about respectful disagreement and reinforce a calm environment. He recognized the value of SVUSD’s diverse makeup, including its LGBTQ population and students with special needs.
“It is important that . . . all students know that the adults at their schools are allies and that our district is one of inclusion,” the superintendent wrote.
He also asked staff and faculty to be “hyper-vigilant” in identifying students who may need to be reminded of the district’s “inclusive culture.”
At the Simi Valley school board’s regular Nov. 15 meeting, Peplinski told the trustees about a young girl who had emailed him the weekend after the election regarding her reservations about attending school the following Monday. She expressed concern because her parents are undocumented and she did not want to leave them. That email prompted him to send the Nov. 14 letter to his staff. “I assured her that our schools are full of caring adults and supportive classmates,” Peplinski told the board.
Also in the wake of the election, a group of kids at Valley View Middle School reportedly chanted, “Build the wall” during a P.E. class, referring to Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall along the border of the U.S. and Mexico.
“When administration became aware of the comments, we made an announcement over the PA (system) in an effort to be as proactive as possible,” Valley View Principal Michael Hall said. “The PA announcement let the students know that the comments were insensitive and not representative of what a (Valley View) Viking is.
Peplinski said the chanting was brief and not directed at any particular student.
“The staff immediately intervened and spoke with the students about being respectful to all on campus,” the superintendent said. “That was the end of it and it did not happen again.”
Hall stressed the incident was isolated and not indicative of Valley View’s “amazing students” and “respectful atmosphere.”
“In any environment, there may be moments of insensitivity and disrespect, but if handled as a teaching moment, our young students will rise to the occasion and correct their behavior,” the principal said.
At Simi Valley High School, Principal Dean May said he’d heard buzz of a walkout. But the action did not materialize.
“We didn’t have to handle anything because nothing really happened,” May told the Simi Valley Acorn.
Disruptions were minimal at other SVUSD campuses.
Royal High School Assistant Principal Matt Guzzo said counselors were made available to any students with concerns or anxiety about election results.
“We were very fortunate at Royal to not have any situations that would be insensitive to any of our students,” he said, who commended the school’s overall culture of tolerance.
Luke Golden, who teaches filmmaking at Santa Susana High School, mentioned a student-organized rally at his school two weeks ago.
“We were informed by administration that it was not an anti-Trump rally but rather a support for minorities and disenfranchised people across the country,” Golden said, adding that he did not notice any of his students leave for the gathering.
Golden said Santa Su’s administration acknowledged how well-behaved the students were and informed the staff that students were delivering a message of love, not hate or protest.
The teacher also conducted several in-class discussions to give students the opportunity to express their concerns and fears.
“From my perspective, our school has handled this issue with sensitivity and support for all students and their beliefs,” he said.
Overall, Peplinski was pleased with how the district managed the post-election weeks.
“We have had very little issue and I am proud of our students and staff for the way they have handled any concerns,” he said.