SAN DIEGO (AP / CNS) - The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday night postponed adding 190 employees to a list of 1,500 who have received layoff notices, instead agreeing to negotiate further with the unions of the affected employees.
The proposal comes as district officials seek to eliminate a $124 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.
"We've got a long and strong track record in this district of solving problems together, and that includes negotiation," Board President Richard Barrera said. "The negotiations can be tough at times, but they can also identify solutions that we would not have identified had we not worked together and negotiated."
Those to be added to the list of employees receiving layoffs included more than 40 library technicians, mental health workers and bus drivers, along with other support staff.
Notices have been served on teachers, tech support staff, special education assistants and others.
The district has also proposed cutting the work year by between 11 and 14 days for classified and administrative employees, depending on their schedules.
Those cuts will be considered again at a May board meeting.
As one of the nation's largest school districts, it is defending its campaign to fight Islamophobia and promote understanding of Muslim culture against critics who say it is favoring a religion.
Kevin Beiser, vice president of the San Diego Unified School District board, said Tuesday that the effort is modeled on a plan he advanced several years ago to protect LGBT students. He said bullying of Muslim students is pervasive and vastly underreported.
"Muslim students are constantly being harassed, spit on, verbally abused, pushed, shoved, their hijabs are being pulled," he said, calling it a "serious problem probably in every public school in the country."
Critics planned a protest at Tuesday's school board meeting but no one in the audience rose to speak for or against the effort and there were no visible signs of opposition.
The program includes making teachers and staff aware of when Muslim holidays occur, setting up professional staff development training on awareness of and advocating for Muslim culture, providing resources to students during Ramadan, and giving teachers history and social science materials, among other things.
In its statement, CQE said it objected to several steps being taken under the program, including establishing a partnership with the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The district said it is not endorsing Islam, favoring a religion or imposing Sharia law.
Another issue the school district addressed during a board meeting was its controversial sex education program.
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