Equal Rights Start In Schools



After one local mom noted the media’s coverage of Olympic women seemed stingy, we appreciated even more the Indy’s in-depth features on the Fischer sisters as leaders among U.S. women in Rio.

As dad and grandpa helping raise seven girls, I know even subtle bias can limit full realization of God-given gifts and creative potential for young women.  Public schools play vital roles empowering girls early to know they’re second to none in pursuing dreams and destiny.

Sometimes public school students take the lead overcoming hurdles to equal rights for their peers.  As early as 1969, the LBHS homecoming was democratized by students to promote equality and true not token diversity.  In 1970 students broke gender barriers at LBHS by affirmatively recruiting and electing the first female student body president.  A student government communications director ensured local media featured the milestone event (at lbstudentsfirst.com click “photos/growing/up/Laguna”).

Fast forward to 2002, local students raised $10,000 for Sima Wali, the heroine who risked prison or death operating underground schools to teach girls to read, in violation of Taliban law in Afghanistan. LB students and families generously supported her noble cause (at lbstudentsfirst.com click “photos/personal-family”).

Student driven civic empowerment at LBHS has waned. Recent adult orchestrated focus groups with misleading names fall far short of meaningful democratic student civics.  Our school board does not even comply with its own bylaws enabling a student government representative to participate in board deliberations and cast advisory votes.

Ten years ago, I called for a revival of robust student government at LBHS under a new student ratified constitution, to bring students out of gadget-dependent social isolation into face-to-face interconnectivity and more vibrant campus life. Collaborative computer based learning is vital but no substitute for on and off campus civic empowerment giving all students new leadership options, exemplified by the LBHS student recently appointed to the board of the community food bank.

We are selling kids short when community service becomes a chore for graduation. The state Healthy Kids Survey findings of increased substance abuse at LBHS and “anguish” due to social disconnection confirm appropriately calibrated civics and student government will help reverse negative socialization, create healthy social encounters, and give all students a new ladder to leadership.

Early development of American civics based on equal rights and responsibilities for all leads to good citizenship. It all begins in our schools.

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

The author is running for school board.  

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