“School Climate Survey” Missing Key Issues

In response to the Harper Junior High School incident last fall where a student was repeatedly harassed based on his fathers same-sex relationship, the district developed a number of programs including the school climate action plan as a means to assess the school climate and begin to attempt to teach students about diversity. One of the items on tonight’s agenda will look at the steps needed to be taken to address the needs of a diverse community. This includes such important issues as hiring teachers and other staff who reflect our student demographics. This seems to be a strong and positive step that address some of the key concerns that have been presented here in recent weeks.

However, just before that item, another item appears on the agenda tonight at the Davis Joint Unified School Board meeting which will inform the school board on the climate action plan which includes the “school climate survey” which contains 41 questions and was supposedly mailed out to all of the parents in the school district.

According to the agenda:

“This Action Plan has been developed and reviewed by principals, the District School Climate Council, and site staffs. The Yale Survey has been delivered to each site, Holmes Junior High has obtained a grant and has held Safe School Ambassador training, assemblies on school climate are being presented, and many more complementary activities are happening to implement the actions in this plan. This is continuous work that will be focused in the future on the new comprehensive survey results.

The Yale Survey will be administered during the first 2 weeks in May, and the results returned prior to the end of the school year. The results will be shared with the district and at the sites through staff meetings, within classrooms, Site Councils, PTA, and School Climate Committees. Further actions will be developed from these results.”

While I increasingly believe that a lot of the problems stem from the lack of responsiveness and poor handling from school administrators, I think that a good school climate survey could be a very informative means for the school district to assess the problems that exist in the schools.

The operational word here being “good” and the operational phrase being “climate survey.”

An enraged parent delivered a copy of the survey for me. Perhaps the district has a different sense of what “school climate” means than the rest of us because not one question relates to the issues of harassment, discrimination, race relations, bullying, diversity of faculty, or any of the major issues that we have been dealing with this school year.

I even checked to make sure that this survey was intended to test the kind of “climate” issues that the climate coordinator was hired to handle. From the agenda item and the response I got, I believe the answer is affirmative.

What is on the survey? Well there are five questions about the appearance and/ or condition of the school buildings. I do not recall the condition of our schools to be a huge issue.

There are questions about participation by parents, standard of work, the way the principal treats the students, whether the students at the school enjoy reading, whether the school has a high standard of work, etc.

It is not that some if not many of these questions are not important. It is that there are clearly questions that are left out and those are questions which deal with the key issues that have been addressed this year and those are the key issues that the school district specifically created the climate coordinator position to address. To not have any of those kinds of questions on the survey, calls into question the entire survey and the entire program.

There is simply a lot of information that the school district needs to deal with issues such as race relations, bullying, discrimination, harassment, and the like, that they will not get from this survey.

I would like to know who was involved in the selection of this survey. The agenda item mentions principals, climate council, and site staffs. It leaves me to wonder if the school board looked at this survey before it was approved and sent to all the parents in the district. From the responses I have gotten, I would suspect not. And I would like to know what oversight is available for such matters because those who I talked to were unaware of the survey’s existence even, much less its content.

It is my hope that the community and the board get some key answers to this tonight at the school board meeting. I would encourage any parents involved in these issues to come to the board meeting and ask questions.

To read the full survey with all 41 questions for yourself, please click here.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting


  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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