One of the most contentious issues facing parts of the nation has to do with disruptions of local school board meetings. I’m not aware of any disruptions at our local school board meetings, but there still are some points about how school board meetings work that need clarification.

Before doing so, however, I would like to let you know that I served as a member of the Rush County Board of School Trustees for nearly 14 years. During all that time, I recall only one meeting that could even remotely be considered as contentious – not among members of the board, but between board members and the general public. It had nothing to do with what was being taught in Rush County Schools, but everything to do with renovating the high school which, at the time was in a sad state of disrepair. The contentious issue was whether or not property taxpayers were willing to pay for the renovation.

As one might expect, there was a group of people who opposed the renovation because it was going to increase their property taxes. In Indiana, property taxpayers can force a referendum if a certain number of property taxpayers sign a petition demanding one. I don’t remember at the moment how many valid signatures were required, but I do recall that it’s not very many. Well, to make a long story short, we had the referendum and those opposed to the renovation lost and the high school underwent a $16 million dollar renovation, which was badly needed.

But I digress. The point is how school boards work.

This is the most important point for readers to understand: Meetings of elected boards of education are private meetings held in public. Think about that for a minute. School board meetings are not public meetings, they are private meetings held in public. That doesn’t mean that the public can’t attend. The public is welcome to attend. They just can’t ask questions or make comments unless they have been placed on the agenda before the School Board session is held; it’s a certain number of hours or days before the meeting is held so those wishing to speak or make a statement or ask questions can be put on the agenda. Frankly, I haven’t heard anybody make that distinction in all the news coverage about disruptions at school board meetings in Virginia (or anyplace else, for that matter).

I have heard the Attorney General of the United States refer to people allegedly causing these disruptions as “domestic terrorists.” Their issue centers on the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the public schools. Most parents seem to feel that, at its core, CRT tends to divide rather than unite students and; therefore, they oppose it.

For example, the Associated Press writes, “Critical Race Theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society. The architects of the theory argue that the United States was founded on the theft of land and labor and that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race. Proponents also believe race is culturally invented, not biological.”

Whether you believe the points being made are valid or not is up to you. The question about teaching it to school kids is another matter entirely, and it is the central issue that is upsetting parents. The purpose of my column is to talk about how school boards work, not what they ban or endorse what’s being taught in the classroom.

It’s important to keep in mind that school boards are made up of elected officials. If parents and property taxpayers don’t like what’s going on in their schools, they can always run candidates for school board seats and get rid of those school board members with whom they disagree – just like any other elected public official. The ballot box, it seems to me, is the best way to approach what’s going on in the public schools across this nation. All that’s required for parents to express their dissatisfaction is to sign up to speak at a school board meeting, but even doing that does not justify the sort of outbursts we’ve seen on television lately. Nor is it appropriate to threaten school board members. The proper course of action is simply to vote them off the school board!

Can a school board ban input from the public? School boards can address personnel issues, for example, in what’s called Executive Session. It’s obvious why that’s so: If an allegation has been made about a teacher’s behavior or performance, that should not be determined in public. Anybody can understand that. The key, however, is to remember that school boards have private meetings that are held in public.

That’s —30— for this week.

Retired Rush County businessman Paul W. Barada may be contacted via this publication at news@greensburgdailynews.com.

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