Bella Vista Students Call Out Administration for Williams Act Infringement

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Bella Vista Students Call Out Administration for Williams Act Infringement

Bella Vista High School students with Biology teacher, Anne Tweedy

Bella Vista High School students with Biology teacher, Anne Tweedy

Bella Vista High School students with Biology teacher, Anne Tweedy

Bella Vista High School students with Biology teacher, Anne Tweedy

Antoinette Aho, Editor-in-Chief

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Over the summer, the San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento was tasked with resolving a Williams Act issue at one of their high schools, Bella Vista. At the beginning of June, it was revealed that a biology teacher at BVHS, Anne Tweedy, was asked to either leave the school or work in a science classroom that provoked health issues for her and students.

Tweedy has taught at BVHS for 24 years, for the same department, in the same room. The problem began when Tweedy moved into a renovated STEM classroom in September. Post-installation, it would be found that the new flooring left a harmful chemical in the air, leading Tweedy to experience health issues including irritation in her throat. 

To quickly solve the issue, the administration had Tweedy switch classrooms, in a separate wing, with another teacher for the rest of the school year. But she received an email from Principal Dr. Kitchen of BVHS, claiming that the students of Bella Vista would not achieve a substantial science learning experience in a non STEM classroom. In the email’s entirety, Kitchen asked Tweedy to move back to her original room – giving the teacher two options: leave BV, or teach in a hazardous room.

When Tweedy informed her students of her likely departure, they spoke out to defend their teacher, and protect their educational rights as students.

Anthony Lam (‘21) began a petition on change.org, which received over 2,000 digital signatures. 

Furthermore, having done their research, the students protesting Tweedy’s departure knew that the Williams Act provides both students and teachers with equal access to instructional materials, quality teachers, and safe schools. The CA Dept. of Education states, “School districts must assess the safety, cleanliness, and adequacy of school facilities, including any needed maintenance to ensure good repair.” 

When students analyzed the air quality tests that were taken when the classroom was renovated, they took note of the inconsistencies and questioned the accuracy of the tests. Looking for an answer to her illness, Tweedy conducted her own tests and found prominent levels of formaldehyde in the air, a chemical that is used in building materials and can cause irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat. 

Tweedy had constantly been breathing in formaldehyde, and although the school’s test did not take note of it, one can directly link formaldehyde to the new flooring, and thence to Tweedy’s constant irritation in her throat.  

BVHS had clearly not maintained the Williams Act educational right, adding to the student’s protest. 

To further the issue, when BV students Kyle Namgostar (‘22) and Michael Kopitske (‘22) checked every classroom in J Wing, none of them had the Williams Act amendment posted – which is a requirement for every Californian classroom. 

Throughout their protest, they encouraged students at BV, along with their parents, to attend a board meeting, which was held on 11 June 2019. 

Students had the chance to make a comment on Tweedy’s issue, although the case was not discussed since board meetings require all addressed topics to be on the agenda beforehand.

Despite not being resolved, the student’s action against the unfair decisions of BV’s administration shows the power that student voices hold. As a collective, they were able to stand up for Tweedy and show their support while calling out the administration and the school for not following the crucial Williams Act and protecting themselves as students. 

As of August 2019, Tweedy is not teaching at BVHS. In an effort to close the inconsistencies in the previous air quality tests, the administration is taking new tests in the J wing classrooms.