BHUSD Board Discusses Vacancy and AI Regulations

After former Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education member Mary Wells was elected to the City Council last month, the remaining members on April 24 agreed to leave her seat vacant until the Nov. 5 election. 

Due to the timing of Wells’ resignation on April 1, the board would have had approximately a month to look for a replacement who would only hold that position until the election, BHUSD HR/Legal Counsel Jabari Willis said. Considering the time and resources required to find a candidate in such a squeeze, the board agreed it was best to wait for voters to cast their ballots. 

“It’s almost giving short shrift to do all the labor that’s involved in such a short course of time,” Board President Dr. Amanda Stern said. “I want to do what is best for the children. If we were to commit to the task of selecting a valuable player within this short amount of time, that is a lot of labor away from these very exciting things that are coming up, like graduation.”  

The board members were also confident the lack of a tie-breaking fifth vote would not impede their progress. Even though the board members might come into a meeting with disagreements about an issue, they consistently work to find consensus and almost always vote unanimously, Board Member Noah Margo said. 

“I think we work together well,” Board Vice President Rachelle Marcus said. “And I think that we can discuss things out and come to agreements and see other people’s viewpoints.”

The deadline for candidates to file nomination documents is July 15.

During the April 24 meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy also discussed his recent trip to Washington as part of the California School Board Association’s Coast to Coast Federal Advocacy Trip, where he and other BHUSD representatives discussed AI regulations with federal lawmakers. 

The Washington trip came just a month after five Beverly Vista Middle School students were expelled for generating nude AI photos of their classmates, and the BHUSD delegates met with approximately 60 lawmakers and advisors, dropping off a one-page note calling for legislation to keep kids safe from AI technology, said Margo, who attended the conference. 

“We need you to legislate solutions by regulating the AI industry to protect children’s safety and dignity,” the note read. “The current strategy for safeguarding children from technology has failed, leaving vulnerable students at risk.” 

In a statement, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles County), who met personally with Margo, said that as a parent, the issue hits close to home, and it has inspired him to sponsor several bills aimed at reigning in AI and deepfake technology.  

Lieu is a co-sponsor of Rep. Joe Morelle’s (D-Rochester, N.Y.) Preventing Deepfakes of Intimate Images Act, which would prohibit the nonconsensual distribution of digitally created or altered intimate images; a co-sponsor of Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) DEFIANCE Act, which enables victims of pornographic deepfakes and other digital forgeries to take civil action against the creators of those fake images; and a Co-Chair of the AI Task Force.  

“My office and I have been hearing from local leaders who share our alarm and disgust that students in Beverly Hills were victimized by the circulation of nonconsensual nude images generated by AI technology. As a parent, I understand how troubling this is,” Lieu said. “I … remain committed to implementing effective AI policy at the federal level.”

Many federal efforts to regulate AI technology are taking place in individual committees siloed off from one another, and Bregy said the BHUSD delegates pushed lawmakers to work together. 

“It’s getting there, and people are listening to us,” he said. 

The board on April 24 also approved a series of contracts related to school facilities, including an agreement to host the Beverly Hills High School spring concerts at the Saban Theatre and two contracts for two new shade structures at Horace Mann Elementary School. 

The two structures, which will provide shade for the preschool patio and the playground, cost approximately $150,760.   

Board Member Judy Manouchehri added that the board will continue to invest in Horace Mann, including by adding more greenery and updating the play structure. 

“I want to thank everybody for their efforts to not accept Horace Mann the way that it was,” Manouchehri said. “The mindset of, ‘Let’s take Horace Mann, which is an amazing facility, and let’s make it even better and even more custom for our needs,’ I fully subscribe to that.” 

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