The school board failed to reach a decision on a package of policy updates. The policy that caused them to founder was a policy labeled INB. Part of the policy’s purpose was to deal with teaching controversial topics. One paragraph that seemed to be a major source of heartburn for some of them was a paragraph that prohibits teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity. The paragraph reads: In addition, teachers shall not engage in discussions with students about sexual orientation or gender identity. “Sexual orientation” is defined as an individual’s physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to people of the same and/or different gender. “Gender identity” is defined as an individual’s personal conception of their gender.
District 5 school board member Georgia Hairston wanted INB to be removed from the package of policy updates for further discussion and revision. However, District 4 school board member Marcus Hill had already made a motion to approve the entire package and was unwilling to withdraw his motion. Hill felt the policy does not prohibit discussions as part of an approved course.
Hill felt that teachers discussing sexual orientation and gender identity is inappropriate for teachers to do.
“That is the job of our parents,” he said.
Hill said the schools need to focus on academic success and ensure that students are set up for success.
District 1 school board member Dr. Susan Mele asked what if a student can’t discuss these topics with his parents and kills himself. District 7 school board member Chris Daniels countered, asking what if the topic is discussed and the kid is told the wrong thing. He suggested the school can advise the student where to get help.
A heated argument ensued between Hill and Daniels and Mele until School Board Chairman Susan Kirby reined them in.
Kirby then said she felt the wording of the policy is too stringent.
“I don’t like it,” she said.
When the vote was taken, Hairston, Mele and Kirby voted no on the entire package because INB was part of it. Daniels, Hill and District 3 school board member Dwayne Nelms voted yes.
District 2 school board member Matt Holbrook was absent, so the vote was a 3-3 vote. Under the rules the school board follows, a tie vote, due to a member’s absence, must come back on the next regular meeting’s agenda. The policy updates will be back on the agenda at the school board’s June meeting.
In other business, the school board approved transferring $400,000 from this year’s instructional budget to the transportation budget. Chief Financial Officer Randy Hagler said this was needed because fuel prices have been higher than had been anticipated last year.
The school board also unanimously approved a two year contract for liquid propane at a price of $1.17 a gallon.
In another matter, the school board unanimously voted on staffing standards for the new school year. Staff had recommended a teacher/student ratio of no more than 27 students in one class. The school board accepted this recommendation. They also voted to not allow zone transfers to schools where a zone transfer threatened to put a classroom over this maximum size.