Colorado School District Fails Schoolchildren
As the debate began nationally over mandatory masks and vaccinations for school-age children, many Mama and Papa Bears across the country focused attention on their local school board.
It was generally assumed that each school board membership would predominately consist of parents or grandparents of students within that school district. It has been further assumed that those board members were committed to the long-term health effects of their children rather than a board that easily accepted the dictates of Big Pharma and its minions at the CDC, WHO, FDA, the local health department, or the once-altruistic Democratic Party.
We now know that some of those idealistic visions have yielded to the reality that some of those school boards have been easily influenced to adopt more politically correct agendas such as Critical Race Theory rather than focus on increasing academic standards or a decrease in graduation dropout rates.
There is no doubt that all these parents love their children, but there is something more going on here. How is it that some parents are more willing to accept the authority of the State when it comes to their own behavior as well as forcing that behavior on their children... without questioning why? Isn’t there a general agreement that each parent has the inherent right to make decisions for their own children; without the State usurping that authority? When did that get lost?
One such example is the 9R School District in the Rocky Mountain environs of Durango in southwest Colorado, at the end of what used to be called the Granola Belt of Colorado that began north of Boulder. Concerned parents began to question the need for mandatory masks for elementary school-age children who are admittedly not vulnerable to COVID infection, when it was discovered quite accidentally that the 9R School Board had already adopted a Resolution on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion apparently without a publicly noticed public hearing.
According to its January 26, 2021 ‘minutes,” I say ‘apparently’ because the minute's link reveals no record of a board discussion or debate taking place on the resolution. And since there is no secretary of the board, which, in itself, is highly unusual, there is no one person who has the responsibility to make sure that pertinent facts for the public interest are provided. There is no need for the board to provide voluminous information but that a basic level of content is reasonable to expect from any public entity dealing with 4,914 students and a $72 M budget.
One can only assume that the resolution was the board’s version of injecting Critical Race Theory into the 9R curriculum in the hopes of sliding it under the table without creating a furor that would have resulted if the board had conducted a bona fide public hearing. It is interesting to note that the demographics of 9R are 75% White, 15% Latino, 5% American Indian and 1% African American. While the resolution called for the district to form a committee to address ‘systemic inequities’ within the district and to ‘engage third-party subject matters experts specializing in diversity, equity and inclusion to identify systemic racism and injustice,” there is no obvious way to track the status of whether either task has been accomplished.
At the same time, the board has done away with the Pledge of Allegiance and replaced it with a Land Acknowledgement statement.
The overall lack of appropriate meeting space includes amateur acoustics with a meeting/seating arrangement that shields each board member from revealing any personal cognitive awareness and distances the audience so as to discourage any real participation; all have a stifling effect on communication with the board. The lack of meaningful exchange between the board and audience was especially revealing during the August 12th meeting when the board approved the use of mandatory masks for its students. (Minutes and videos of past meetings can be found here.)
By the end of August, with four board seats up for November 2 election, things became quickly befuddled when questions arose about whether one incumbent who had moved in August met the residency requirement. She was required to resign her seat from District D and is now running from District E in which she may or may not meet the 9R residency requirements.
Adding to the kerfuffle, an announced candidate who filed nominating petitions and was accepted as a valid candidate in District D was unceremoniously edged out of the race. And yet that candidate is listed on the 9R website as if she is a current board member in District D. That same candidate was never a formal member of the board yet there is no explanation how she made the board member listing. It is all very curious and I have no intelligence to add although we can be certain there is more of a backstory.
In addition, there is also the fact that the list of qualified board candidates did not include any of the four documents that each candidate was required to submit; including a copy of their nominating petition. Providing public copies of these documents might have provided answers to the above questions re eligibility requirements rather than leave the board open to charges of a lack of transparency.
Multiple inquiries for clarification to 9R’s public information officer went unacknowledged as she is less inclined to provide the public with information as might be expected.
My next call was to 9R attorney Darryl Farrington who operates out of Denver and is currently general counsel to thirty-five school districts throughout Colorado, which raises the question of whether they are all getting their monies worth. When I inquired as to the eligibility status of the two aforementioned candidates, he refused to answer for fear of violating his attorney-client privilege. A-C is frequently a way to avoid answering pesky questions.
Most important of all, is the current board's reluctance to discuss its pre-COVID decline of 9R’s academic proficiency in math, science, and reading scores with almost 80% of all students below grade level and its abysmal 74% graduation rate; all of which are secondary to a board that is more focused on fulfilling the necessary politics of the day rather than address the district’s failing academic standards.
Renee Parsons served on the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and as president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, staff in the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, an environmental lobbyist for Friends of the Earth, and a staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found at email@example.com.
Image: Timm Suess
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