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School Board Passes Climate Change Curriculum Resolution


The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) School Board discussed the newly-implemented Coaching Boys into Men program, the Title IX office, and the Climate Literacy Resolution during their November 3 meeting. 

The meeting’s public comment section was filled with students, parents, teachers, and Berkeley community members voicing their support for the Climate Literacy Resolution, which passed unanimously.

  The Climate Literacy Resolution is a promise to create a climate curriculum for BUSD over the next 18 months so that students graduate high school with a thorough understanding of climate change. 

The resolution was the last agenda item of the meeting, and had been discussed in a previous meeting. 

BUSD School Board Director Laura Babitt started the discussion by sharing a video of young students explaining why they think the resolution is important. Babbitt said there was a petition that had obtained 630 signatures asking for the plan to be passed. 

A significant concern of the board when looking at the Climate Literacy Resolution was funding. BUSD has had to face many budget cuts this year, and there is currently no specific place where funding for this plan can come from. A focus group will have to look at grants and other resources to find funding. A concern is that in order to fund this project, budget cuts will have to be made in other places. 

“I think this should be one of our highest priorities to fund,” said board member Ty Alper. 

Earlier in the meeting, Gabriel Lopez, the director of Coaching Boys into Men, presented to the board about the program. Coaching Boys into Men, now called Berkeley Athletics Consent and Empowerment (BACE), is a coaching program that trains high school athletes on how to avoid using violence as a response to conflict, have healthy relationships, and understand rape culture. It focuses on three ideas — power, conflict, and consent — which are seen in three consecutive units. 

BACE recognizes how important and influential coaches are for young athletes, and therefore it also teaches coaches how to positively impact their players. 

BACE is currently leading workshops with the junior varsity and varsity football teams, as well as all three boys volleyball teams. Lopez said that BACE “offers everyone in [Berkeley High School (BHS)] athletics a safe and collaborative space to learn and express.” A central focus and goal of BACE is to understand and critique toxic masculinity and the patriarchy, as well as define and divest from rape culture. 

Megan Farrell, who is the interim Title IX coordinator for BUSD, and Mary Keating, who is the full time Title IX investigator, updated the board on BHS’s Title IX office. 

The Title IX office has recently acquired a digital claims database so that all sexual harassment claims made will be recorded digitally for much easier access in the future. Along with the online database, the office is making it possible to submit complaint forms online only, and looking into anonymous reporting options. There have been 16 complaints filed this year. The office puts those complaints into five categories. 

The Title IX office has office hours on Mondays and Fridays, which it hopes to make more widely known among students. 

A full time Title IX coordinator will begin work on November 29.

Farrell spoke on how the office responds to complaints. “We try to be responsive because the most important time when a Title IX matter comes up, in my opinion, is the two days after. Because that’s when the students need our help the most,” Farrell said.

The board also watched a presentation on Ethnic Studies. 

BUSD is currently instituting an Ethnic Studies curriculum for grades lower than high school, and BHS Ethnic Studies teacher Hasmig Minassian shared a timeline of the program. 

According to Minassian, the Ethnic Studies curriculum started in 1990, when BHS students demanded it be a class. Since then, BUSD has been a leader in its Ethnic Studies education. Teachers also gave examples on how they approach the central question of the class, “Who am I and how do I fit into this diverse society?”

The board also took a moment of silence for supervisor Wilma Chan, who recently passed away. 

Moving forward with the climate resolution, a focus group will be formed to create the curriculum. The board allotted $65,000 for this project. More was to be given for the resolution, but the board does not currently have the funds.

“I just wanted to thank everyone for coming out to support the climate resolution,” said Babitt. “I am definitely in favor of making sure that we can meet the needs of this generation, [so] they will be better prepared than my generation has been when facing these issues,” Babitt concluded.