Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Have School Boards Grown Too Powerful for the Good of the People?

             Parents and conservatives have been pushing for schools to open for over a year, but some school districts remained closed. A month ago, we learned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was lobbied by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to keep school closed. The teachers union went so far as to suggest the language to be used by the CDC in their statement about reopening in February 2021. Emails between the CDC, AFT, and White House officials show that the AFT was doing a full-court press on the federal agency. The teachers did not the schools open for in-person learning.

            We would not have this information with the power of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Americans for Public Trust. The information was then given to the New York Post and Jon Levine. According to Levine, the emails show that there was close coordination between the officials at the CDC and union officials with White House officials kept in the loop. 

The documents show a flurry of activity between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisors and union officials – with Biden brass being looped in at the White House – in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines.

“Thank you again for Friday’s rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT,” wrote AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner in a Feb 1 email – which described the union as the CDC’s “thought partner.”

“We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document,” Trautner continued. “… We believe our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents.”

            I believe that it is wise for government officials to listen to counsel from all quarters in the nation. However, I do not think that it is necessary to allow any of the sources of counsel to make the decisions that should be made by government officials. Levine wrote that “The lobbying paid off” because “suggestions” made by the union were adopted nearly verbatim in the final CDC document.

The above email information shows that the AFT carries a lot of power in the nation. Is it too much power?  Is it the reason why people have problems with their local school boards? Three single mothers tried to attend the school board meeting in the small southwest Washington town of Washougal, which sits on the Columbia River just across from Portland, according to Victoria Taft at PJ Media. 

The three women signed up to speak at the board meeting about critical race theory (CRT) and mask mandates on May 11. Tatyana Stepanyuk, Patricia Bellamy, and Melissa MciIwain were concerned about the mask mandates as well as the CRT “being added to the curriculum under orders from Governor Jay Inslee. None of the women were allowed to speak even though the in-person meeting was sparsely attended but broadcast online. The meeting “barely got off the ground before the school superintendent and her underling insisted that Stepanyuk – the only person in the room without a mask – should put on a mask.

Stepanyuk reminded the superintendent that the governor decreed that people with medical and religious exemptions did not need to wear masks. She also noted that every other person in the room was wearing a mask. There should be no problem because they were protected. The officials insisted that Stepanyuk needed to comply with the mask mandates.

Bellamy and MciIwain were both wearing masks and said that they had no problem with Stepanyuk not wearing one. This was their first mistake. They assumed that the school officials were mainly concerned with the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. That was not their main concern.

The superintendent, assistant superintendent, and a board member took turns for more than 20 minutes of standing over Stepanyuk and lecturing her. “Stepanyuk took video of the last eight minutes of the lecture, calmly recited the law, and remarked about how she was sorry that these educators hadn’t educated themselves about the mask law.” Meanwhile, Bellamy and MciIwain were masked up and waiting for their opportunity to speak at the meeting.

The meeting was stopped, and people at the meeting left. The three moms were among those who left. However, they received a call from a parent watching the fiasco on Zoom, who told them that a new meeting was being held. They turned around and went back only to learn that the door was locked.

The women knocked on the door and spoke through an open window, requesting that they be allowed to attend the meeting. Someone closed the window on them. “Bellamy told me on the radio on Friday that for the next 30 minutes the women stood there in disbelief while the people inside, including the board members, ‘laughed at and mocked’ them.”

Someone used sidewalk chalk to write words – such as “illegal” -- on the sidewalks, windows, and the car of one of the officials. The next thing that the women knew, a local police officer was and cited all of them for trespassing and Stepanyuk for disorderly conduct. The district website stated the next day that the “board members said they “will not tolerate the acts of vandalism, disorderly conduct or intimidation.”

The mothers were not trying to intimidate anyone, and it was not the mothers who interrupted the meeting. “You need only look at the superintendent and the board who disrupted their own meeting to browbeat a mom, who had the law on her side, in a vain attempt to force compliance…. If they had left her alone, they could have proceeded with the meeting” and there would not have been any vandalism.

And now, because of the trespassing citation, the single mothers were instructed that they could be arrested and cited for burglary if they show up on district property to pick up their children from school or go to their children’s athletic events. MciIwain would risk arrest going to her children’s graduations from kindergarten and fifth grade.

All this action came about because the three mothers had some concerns that they wanted to address at a local school board meeting. The women are not going away quietly. MciIwain and Bellamy created a website called Washougal Moms to get their story out. They are also seeking donations to pay legal bills because they believe that they were defamed by the school district in the local newspaper. They held a rally to draw attention to the issue and said that they have already found candidates for the school board. They are also looking for a civil rights attorney to sue the district. They may have a good case.

An attorney with the Freedom Foundation, which is already combating the state’s mask mandates, says there may have been violations of state open meeting laws and civil rights violations.

            You never know when you might open a can of worms by simply signing up to speak at a public meeting. The results of this case should be interesting.


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