As students and parents prepare for the school year to go back into full swing, the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District will preside over a few issues that could impact the school year. On the agenda for the August 16 board meeting are the following items of note:

Districtwide plastic straw ban

Santa Monica may follow Malibu’s lead in banning plastic straws. SMMUSD will consider further sustainability efforts within the district with an option to adopt a resolution to ban plastic straws.

According to the agenda, if the board does agree to adopt the ban, it would take effect immediately. The agenda notes that the district would make exceptions the medically fragile in the district when necessary.

While plastic straws aren’t a majority of SMMUSD plastic waste by volume, the agenda notes that banning plastic straws could help set a precedent that would lead to the removal of other major plastic materials that would need significant infrastructure change within district operations.

Banning the plastic straw is the easiest step towards plastic elimination with the least operational impact at this time according to staff.

Additionally, staff hopes the ban will benefit students and the community in other ways.

“Waste reduction is a district sustainability goal that relies on behavioral change, a notorious challenge. This first step, eliminating plastic straws, will bring awareness of plastic pollution and the need for change to protect the environment,” the agenda says.

Latino & Spanish speaking parent group PEMA seeks to establish self in district

A Latino and Spanish-speaking parent group are still seeking to officially establish itself within the school district.

PEMA (Padres, Estudiantes, y Maestros Asociación) is a parent group that seeks to “enable Latino parents to engage in the education of their children and to engage in school governance,” according to the group.

In May they held their first meeting, however, the meeting was deemed unofficial by district officials.

Gail Pinsker, district PR officer, said the group hadn’t followed proper guidelines to establish themselves at the time.

“From a district standpoint, the district is supportive of a process like this,” Pinsker said. “But a group like this, like any group, must go through a certain process. We’re working with this group to establish themselves through this process.”

While the district says the group has turned in necessary papers to establish themselves, an outstanding issue is a group using the Pico Youth and Family Center’s tax ID number for their tax and insurance liability. A PEMA spokesperson said they were told previously this wouldn’t be an issue.

Pinsker adds that at the meeting, Dr. Drati will be sharing information regarding “a ‘dependent’ Latino group that he is forming for Samohi, in comparison to this ‘independent’ group that would like to be recognized by the school district and school board.”

Controlled substances policy revision

In this discussion item, staff will recommend that the Board revise their controlled substances policy.

The agenda says the suggested revisions are a result of conversations with principals, district mental health counseling coordinators and service providers in the community.

The update would add a section about students using controlled substances who self-refer themselves to a school administrator seeking help, excluding the self-admitted student from punishment and instead providing them an Action Plan to assist the student.

Revised punishment from students who don’t seek help and are found to be using controlled substances will vary from grade levels.