After routine housekeeping tasks, including the appointment of Christopher Lordi as the Delaware Valley School District’s coordinator of Title IX, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the civil rights compliance coordinator, the Delaware Valley School Board spent most of their Feb. 10 meeting listening to public comments about how public comments should be handled, how books get into the schools’ libraries, sex and gender questions on the Tobacco Youth Survey, and whether quarantines are keeping healthy kids out of school.
Who gets to talk?
Matthew Contreras, who arrived late, wanted to talk about public comments. School board president Jack Fisher said, “We did. You missed it.”
Contreras said commenters should be able to say whatever they want and not stopped just because someone doesn’t like their speech. “As long as I’m not saying I want to shoot you or burn the school down, speech in general should be acceptable,” he said. “My worry is that the presiding officer, whether it’s Jack or somebody else, says, well you can’t say that, I don’t like that language.”
Fisher, who at a previous meeting dressed Contreras down for referring to DV teachers as “gestapo,” told him: “As the presiding officer, I made it clear to my fellow board members that there are certain words we do not use. We do not use the F word. We do not use the N word. We do not create a hostile working environment.”
Fisher said the people who work at DV deserve decorum. “Any language which is inflammatory and goes against their working environment, I will stop,” he said. He told Contreras he could say whatever he wanted about elected officials, “but when you get to the employees of this district, that’s when it will stop.”
Who picks the books?
How do books find their way onto the shelves of the school district’s libraries?
“Can anyone just add one?” asked Derek Smith, a newly elected member of the school board.
Fisher said he’d put the matter on the agenda for the next work session on Thursday, March 17.
Contreras said a full-blown investigation into library books is necessary, given their “extreme sexual content.”
The schools superintendent, Dr. John Bell, said Contreras doesn’t have any students in district. Contreras said he had every right to be present, and that at some time in the future, he might have a student attending DV schools.
School board member Dawn Bukaj said Contreras could email Fisher or Bell with suggested agenda items.
Another person said parents’ jaws would drop if they knew about some of the books available in school libraries, which she claimed included pornography.
Why the sex questions?
Parents said middle schoolers were asked 160-plus questions in the Tobacco Youth Survey, including about gender and sexual preferences. Parents were able to opt their children out of the survey.
The parents told the school board that the survey was sneaky, since it was supposed to be about tobacco, not sex or gender. They wanted to be able to opt out of all school surveys.
Parent Crystal Esmail said opting out isn’t the same as giving permission.
Bell said the Tobacco Youth Survey is an anonymous online survey given to 20 percent of schools nationwide on a five-year cycle by the federal education department. The Centers for Disease Control oversees the survey.
Board member Jessica Decker said the board needs to review its survey policy.
Another member of the public, Linda, who said she was a retired public health nurse, said the surveys are enormously important in understanding teen pregnancy and sexual activity, and guiding the allocation of dollars. She said she was proud that DV participated in the survey.
Fisher and Bell said the board would talk more about surveys next month.
The hell of quarantine
Why are we quarantining kids who are healthy? asked another parent, Chris, who has six children in three schools throughout the district. Two are on the spectrum with individualized education programs.
Why are workers able to return to their jobs after five days as long as they wear a mask, while the kids are out for ten? he asked.
He said he’s been on the phone with the principal, with his kids screaming and crying throughout. It’s horrible and hurting his family, he said. He believes some of his children may have to repeat a grade.
He said his “youngest is a kindergartner who absolutely despises going to school. I am losing money every morning because I go into work late because I have to help my wife because my kindergartner is overpowering her.”
After days of school lost, he and his wife are back to trying to get them on the bus. He thinks they need to revisit the 5+5. Covid policies are punishing healthy children, he said, “which is wrong, horribly wrong.”
He said he emailed the board and hasn’t received a response from anyone. Fisher said the board has not reached the point where it has to make a decision. To answer prematurely could prejudice the board’s ultimate decision, he said.
The next work session, when the agenda for the next meeting is next, will be held on Thursday, March 10. The next board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 17.