School board shouldn’t avoid debate
It seems that everyone has an opinion on the area high school district’s policy that forbids school officials from telling parents when their children leave campus for confidential medical appointments.
Everyone, that is, except the Nevada Joint Union High School District’s board of trustees, an elected body of five members.
After weeks of silence on an issue that has been a major point of contention in the community, board members were contacted by The Union reporter David Mirhadi and asked if they planned to vote on this matter at a future meeting.
Board President Dan Miller said no, citing the state attorney general’s interpretation of the law that the superintendent now uses as the basis for the parental-consent policy.
Trustee John Renwick said the policy can’t be changed unless the Legislature changes the law.
Trustee Mark Heauser said he was reluctant to take a position on the policy even though he has spent as much as two hours a day fielding questions from constituents.
Trustees Corinne Parilo and Katy Schwarz did not return the reporter’s calls seeking comment on their positions on the policy.
Since the policy has been brought to the public’s attention, this newspaper’s editorial page has published 36 letters to the editor and six Other Voices columns on this topic. More are awaiting publication. It’s clear that the community is interested.
On one side, you have parents who believe they should be notified when their children leave campus for all doctors appointments or counseling sessions. Others say children have privacy rights or deserve protection from abusive family members who might be the source of their problems.
Superintendent Maggie Deetz has said all along that the policy complies with state law, a position the board has apparently adopted, although it’s impossible to determine now.
The board needs to consider other options besides sitting quietly in the shadows while the community engages in a robust and worthy debate.
First, board members should vote on this policy so the community knows where they stand, a minimum standard for public service. To avoid discussing and voting on this suggests an indifference to the community that can undermine confidence in elected representation.
If trustees truly do believe the law is inviolable but oppose it, they can pass a resolution or state for the record that they will urge lawmakers to revisit the law. They can also pledge to lobby in Sacramento for a new law. They can at least make a statement on where they stand.
If they support the policy or the state law, they need to do so for the record so voters can decide if this is the type of representation they want.
To simply say that state law is clear reduces the prospects for accountability and takes trustees down the path of least resistance. In fact, the legal implications of this policy are far from clear or the attorney general would not have been asked to issue an opinion on the law on which it is based. And at this moment, at least 30 school districts have policies that include parental notification.
When these trustees ran for election, they asked for your votes. Now, it’s time to ask for their vote on a parental-consent policy.
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“There is a cult of ignorance in this country … nurtured by the false notion that ‘my ignorance is as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov, 1980.