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H.S. students steal Pride flag, defecate on it & post video to TikTok

“It was definitely an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ community and a lot of students felt it, you know, felt that attack very acutely”

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Paso Robles High School via Google Earth

PASO ROBLES, Ca. – Earlier this school year two students walked into a science teacher’s classroom at Paso Robles High School, they proceeded to rip down the LGBTQ+ Pride flag hanging in the room and fled out the door. The theft took place as there was a classes break and as science instructor Evan Holtz took out after them he lost them in the throng of students in the hallway.

Holtz, who is a chemistry teacher, tutor, and swim coach, has been teaching at Paso Robles since 2019. In an interview with the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Holtz told the paper he had displayed the Pride flag to show solidarity with the school’s LGBTQ students, making sure that they knew they were welcome and safe in his classroom.

What happened immediately after the theft has left the high school’s LGBTQ+ students angered and alarmed. First, the Tribune reported, a video surfaced on TikTok of students attempting to flush the rainbow Pride flag down a toilet. Then, the video showed one student defecating on the flag in the toilet, according to those who had seen and heard about the video.

“It was definitely an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ community,” Geoffrey Land, a social sciences teacher told the paper. “And a lot of students felt it, you know, felt that attack very acutely.”

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District said that administrators at the high school had taken “disciplinary action” after being alerted to the situation and the TikTok video by students. The next action undertaken on October 1st by the school district has left LGBTQ+ students disillusioned and further upset.

District Superintendent Curt Dubost sent a memorandum letter to faculty that read:

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District has received multiple concerns about certain flag displays in teacher classrooms, including those that are large and distracting and those that alter the American flag.

I want to start by reiterating my statement from last year that rainbow flags mean different things to different people but to many are a symbol of safety, inclusion and equity. All students deserve protection against bullying and harassment. A safe, caring learning environment is essential if students are to achieve their academic potential.

We have a duty as a school district to ensure that hate speech and bullying conduct does not create an unsafe campus environment. Students in protected classes are often among the most vulnerable and susceptible to bullying and discrimination.”

Superintendent Dubost then laid out the new district policy: No flags bigger than 2 feet by 2 feet may be displayed in classrooms, and no flags that are “alterations of the American flag” may be displayed in classrooms.

In a follow-up interview with the Tribune Dubost justified his actions telling the paper, “We don’t want to turn it into a politicized issue where a student enters a classroom and looks up, ‘Oh, there’s a rainbow flag here, or there’s a blue lives matter flag here — that determines what the partisanship is of my teacher.’ We think that that’s a real slippery slope. And so we continue to believe that this is a very reasonable compromise solution that allows rainbows, but within reason.”

In an op-ed written by PRHS students on National Coming Out day last week, they expressed their dismay over Dubost’s actions.

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people can celebrate support for LGBTQ equality. But in Paso Robles, where we attend high school, we cannot celebrate. Too often, LGBTQ students feel unwelcome, unsafe and targeted by hate.

After briefly mentioning the theft, video, and the action to ban flags other than a U.S. National flag taken by Superintendent Dubost they added:

Eventually, the school imposed minor discipline upon the offenders, and nearly two weeks later issued a policy statement that includes a ban on rainbow flags larger than 2’ x 2’. As the standard flag size is 3’ x 5’, the school purposefully banned the very flag that was desecrated. What message does this send to students? The flag ban means the school has allowed the haters to win, while LGBTQ students feel punished for wanting to be seen and supported.

The students cited a 2018 oral history project at PRHS which interviewed students in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District area high schools of Templeton, Atascadero and Paso Robles.

They found that offensive slurs and open hostility directed at LGBTQ+ individuals were commonplace in classrooms. LGBTQ+ students reported not feeling included in their school culture. Students interviewed reported that teachers who wore rainbow colored pins or posted supportive flags or posters in their classroom walls helped create welcoming, safe spaces. Over the years, PRHS has witnessed loss of life, violence and intimidation — all in the name of anti-LGBTQ hate.

In their call to action the students stated that; “Enough is enough. How many more students will be traumatized by systems and people who fail to embrace the beauty and diversity of their students? The school’s response is a collective slap in the face of all LBGTQ students at PRHS. From our perspective, the school’s flag ban means they’re more interested in appeasing the bullies than protecting the safety of the victims of hate.”

There is a community forum event scheduled for Wednesday, October 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the PRHS performing arts center. Organized by students, the event, “Coming Out Against Hate,” is an opportunity for students to “share their experiences and visions for a more welcoming, inclusive educational environment,” and it’s the first forum of its kind in Paso Robles, according to a news release sent out about the event.

With the forum, we’re hoping that things change and they stop normalizing hate against us,” a senior told the Tribune, “I’m really proud of the fact that so many people are brave enough to come up against the adversity that is very obvious here. We might get a ton of hate for this. We might get hate-crimed ourselves.

But we can’t let this continue. We have a culture of homophobia here. We literally have no other option than to put ourselves kind of at risk and in danger. Because we can’t let this continue.”

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California

Newsom urges more aggressive response to ongoing drought

Governor warned if there’s not significant reduction in water use this summer, the state could be forced to enact mandatory restrictions

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Governor Newsom convenes summit of state's largest urban water suppliers (Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom convened leaders from the state’s largest urban water suppliers on Monday, which cover two thirds of Californians, and water associations imploring them to take more aggressive actions to combat drought and better engage their customers to ensure all Californians are doing their part to save water. 

After the last drought, local water agencies pushed for greater flexibility on water conservation and drought response based on regional needs and water supplies, arguing that tailored local approaches would be more effective than statewide mandates. Governor Newsom has embraced this localized approach, but voiced concerns today given recent conservation levels around the state, and called on  water agencies to step up efforts to reduce water use amid extreme drought conditions. 

Governor Newsom warned that if this localized approach to conservation does not result in a significant reduction in water use statewide this summer, the state could be forced to enact mandatory restrictions.

The Governor will reconvene these same agencies in the next two months to provide an update on their progress.

“Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “Californians made significant changes since the last drought but we have seen an uptick in water use, especially as we enter the summer months. We all have to be more thoughtful about how to make every drop count.” 

Governor Newsom convenes summit of state’s largest urban water suppliers (Office of the Governor)

The Governor also called upon local water agencies to submit water use data more frequently and increase transparency in order to more accurately measure whether California is meeting water conservation goals. In addition, the Governor called on local water agencies to increase education and outreach efforts to Californians on the urgency of the crisis.

In July 2021, Governor Newsom called on Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15%. At the end of March 2022 after the state failed to meet its 15% goal, the Governor issued an Executive Order calling on local water agencies to escalate their response to the ongoing drought. Tomorrow, at the Governor’s direction, the State Water Resources Control Board will vote on a statewide ban on watering of non-functional turf in the commercial, industrial and institutional sectors as well as regulations requiring local agencies to implement water use restrictions amid the possibility that water supplies may be up to 20% lower due to extreme weather. Currently, local water agencies have implemented restrictions on about half of California’s population. If the Board’s regulations are approved, every urban area of California will be covered by a local plan to reduce water use.

Banning watering of decorative lawns would save between 156,000 acre-feet and 260,000 acre-feet per year, the equivalent of water used by 780,000 households in a year.

The climate crisis has resulted in the western United States experiencing one of the most extensive and intense droughts on record. January through March were the driest first three months in the state’s recorded history, the state’s largest reservoirs are currently at half of their historical averages, and the state’s snowpack is just 14 percent of average. 

The Governor’s California Blueprint proposed this year would invest an additional $2 billion for drought response, which includes $100 million in addition to a previous investment of $16 million this fiscal year for a statewide education and communications effort on drought. These investments build on the previous $5.2 billion three-year investment in the state’s drought response and water resilience through the California Comeback Plan (2021).

Governor Newsom convenes summit of state’s largest urban water suppliers (Office of the Governor)

California’s master water plan, the Water Resilience Portfolio, is a comprehensive vision to build water resilience containing more than 142 separate detailed actions to be taken by state agencies to ensure that California’s water systems can cope with rising temperatures, shrinking snowpacks, rising sea levels and more intense and frequent periods of drought. In March 2021, the Administration released the 2012-2016 Drought Report, which contains lessons learned by state agencies during the last drought. 

The state is calling on Californians to take immediate action to avoid a crisis, including:

  • Limiting outdoor watering – cutting back by even just one day a week can save you up to 20% more water. 
  • Taking shorter showers. Going to a 5 minute shower to save up to 12.5 gallons per shower when using a water-efficient shower head.
  • Taking showers instead of baths – a bath uses up to 2.5 times the amount of water as a shower.
  • Using a broom instead of a hose to clean outdoor areas to save 6 gallons of water every minute.
  • Washing full loads of clothes to save 15-45 gallons of water per load.

More water saving tips can be found at www.saveourwater.com. For the latest on drought, please visit drought.ca.gov.  

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California

California readies 3,000 miles of network infrastructure

Newsom announced that California is one step closer to delivering affordable high-speed internet service to communities throughout the state

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Courtesy of the California Department of Technology

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California is one step closer to delivering affordable high-speed internet service to communities throughout the state on Friday, awarding new contracts that will supply the materials necessary for building 3,000 miles of broadband infrastructure.

The California Department of Technology, as part of the state’s Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative, awarded contracts to two vendors totaling nearly $225 million that will allow the state to purchase enough optical fiber and materials to construct 3,000 miles of the network. 

“Delivering broadband to all is essential to California’s success,” said Governor Newsom. “Access to high speed internet can mean the difference between launching a successful career and being without work. Once constructed, this network will be the largest in the world – and our action today will make the promise of broadband for all a reality.” 

California is strengthening broadband connections to improve access to education, health services and employment opportunities throughout the state. The Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative is the first step to creating an open-access, middle-mile network that will build infrastructure to bring high-speed broadband service to unserved and underserved communities, regardless of technology used, on equal economic and service terms.

675,000 underserved Californians would gain access to high-speed internet across the state with new broadband network

The action today is one part of a comprehensive and long-term approach to tackling the broadband infrastructure deficiencies still impacting rural and low-income communities, bringing the state closer to achieving affordable, high-speed broadband internet service for all communities. Construction on the middle-mile network is expected to be completed by December 2026.

Middle-mile network refers to the physical infrastructure required to connect global internet with local networks

Middle-mile network refers to high-capacity fiber lines that carry large amounts of data at higher speeds over longer distances between local networks. It is the physical infrastructure required to connect global internet networks with local networks and is an essential component of the state’s Broadband for All efforts.

Supply chain issues and nationwide broadband projects have created competition to secure necessary materials. The state’s Invitation For Bid (IFB) was a proactive step to ensure supplies will be available at a pre-negotiated price when they are needed. The state has the ability to add an indefinite amount of materials as needed to complete construction over the next four years.

As a result of the competitive process, the state is guaranteed to have conduit, vaults, optical fiber and construction hardware readily available for the next four years as construction begins in earnest.

Government Operations Secretary Amy Tong said purchasing the material for the network is a critical first step to make sure California has the supplies it needs for construction of the middle-mile network in the coming years.

“This fiber will be the backbone of the middle-mile network, which will bring access to unserved and underserved Californians so they can participate equally in digital society,” Tong said.

Russ Nichols, acting director of the California Department of Technology and chair of the Middle Mile Advisory Committee, said the projects will begin soon.

“With this milestone in place, we can continue our planning with Caltrans to begin installing the fiber as soon as possible,” Nichols said. 

Last year, the Governor signed historic legislation allocating $6 billion for achieving Broadband for All, including $3.25 billion for the middle-mile network and this year’s revised budget proposes an additional $1.1 billion to support the project as it moves into construction. 

The 2021 legislation included:

  • $3.25 billion to build, operate and maintain an open access, state-owned middle-mile network.
  • $2 billion to set up last-mile broadband connections that will connect homes and businesses with local networks. The legislation expedites project deployment and enables Tribes and local governments to access this funding.
  • $750 million for a loan loss reserve fund to bolster the ability of local governments and nonprofits to secure financing for broadband infrastructure.
  • Creation of a broadband czar position at the California Department of Technology, and a broadband advisory committee with representatives from across state government and members appointed by the Legislature.

In 2020, the state mobilized companies, business leaders and philanthropists through public-private partnerships to facilitate distance learning at school districts in need across the state. The effort helped connect students lacking high-speed internet or an appropriate computing device at home with donated mobile hotspots, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets and other devices. 

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California

Newsom gets second booster dose, urges eligible Californians to get theirs

California’s vaccination strategy has saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented even more cases and hospitalizations

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Governor Newsom receives his second Moderna booster dose (Office of the Governor)

BAKERSFIELD – Amid rising COVID-19 cases across the country, and following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of a booster dose for healthy 5- to 11-year-olds, Governor Gavin Newsom today received his second Moderna booster at a clinic in Bakersfield, and encouraged all eligible Californians to get boosted to keep their immunity strong against COVID-19.

The second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine is available to all Californians 50 and older, as well as those who are immunocompromised or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Vaccines have saved tens of thousands of lives in California, and with COVID-19 still prevalent, we can’t afford to let our guard down,” said Newsom. “The best protection against serious illness and hospitalization is getting vaccinated and boosted. I encourage all eligible Californians to get your second booster – for you, for your family, for your friends, for your community.” 

Under the Newsom Administration’s SMARTER Plan, the state maintains operational readiness to continue the fight against COVID-19 and respond quickly, including the ability to administer 200,000 vaccinations and 500,000 tests per day. The California Blueprint includes another $2.4 billion for COVID response, which ensures California will be on the best possible footing against future waves.

According to a study analyzing California’s pandemic response, COVID-19 vaccines prevented an estimated 1.5 million coronavirus infections, nearly 73,000 hospitalizations, and almost 20,000 deaths in California.

The Governor received his booster shot at Clinica Sierra Vista, one of hundreds of health clinic locations around the state where people can receive their free vaccine and booster. The Governor was joined today by California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and community and local leaders who have supported vaccine equity efforts in the region. To date, Clinica Sierra Vista has administered nearly 100,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses.

“Vaccines remain the best protection against hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Our state, like much of the nation, is beginning to see an increase in COVID-19 transmission. Fortunately, thanks to California’s robust vaccination efforts, we are seeing relatively low hospitalization rates,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services Secretary. “This underscores the efficacy and importance of staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines. Californians age 50 and over are encouraged to get their additional booster dose to keep their immunity strong and strengthen their protection against COVID-19.”

According to the California Department of Public Health, the statewide test positivity rate is 5 percent as of Tuesday, about double the positivity rate a month prior, with some regions seeing positivity rates as high as 9 percent. Unvaccinated people are 4.8 times more likely to get COVID-19 than fully vaccinated individuals who are boosted. Unvaccinated people are also 6.5 times more likely to be hospitalized than boosted individuals, and 7.8 times more likely to die than boosted individuals.

California’s response to COVID-19 has led the nation with the lowest COVID death rate among the country’s most populous states. More than 8 in 10 Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 15.5 million Californians have received their first booster dose, representing 59.1 percent of those eligible for a booster. Additionally, 22 percent of eligible Californians have received their second booster dose. 

The state’s Vaccinate ALL 58 campaign continues to focus on driving vaccine efforts in lower-income and non-English speaking communities with cultural competency and in-language outreach and education. Its community-based organization network, in partnership with philanthropy, is now standing at over 700 organizations and supports outreach and appointment assistance efforts.

Clinica Sierra Vista is a comprehensive health care organization serving the primary medical, dental, and behavioral health needs of about 200,000 people in Kern and Fresno counties. With the continued support of federal, state, and local governments, they have been able to reach out to thousands of new patients, offering comprehensive programs tailored to the needs of those they serve over a vast geographical region in the heartland of California.

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