The Lander school board discussed a new obscene materials policy proposal during a regular meeting last week.
They later decided to postpone the idea until a future meeting.
Trustee Taylor Jacobs presented the proposal, which she said would add to the policy passed in June, updating the district’s response to complaints about books and other instructional materials.
That policy focused on removing materials that were already present, Jacobs explained, while her proposal attempts “to prevent this material from even coming into the school.”
“The intention of this policy is maybe just to serve as a reminder to staff,” she said. “I’m hoping this is a preventative (measure).”
Trustee Aileen Brew said she was “uncomfortable” about the idea that “staff may face disciplinary action, up to and including termination” as part of the policy proposal.
“(That) seems really punitive,” Brew said. “And I’m looking at this as a parent who is pretty darn sure that our educators in this district are not willingly or unwillingly or knowingly or unknowingly bringing obscene materials into the classroom. I think the assumption is enormous there.”
Trustee Scott Jensen agreed that “the vast, vast majority of all the educators and staff in our district are excellent” – but he said he also wants “other parents in the district to know that this is something we take seriously.”
“If a member of staff were to feel inclined to violate this policy … they should be terminated,” Jensen said. “I think that’s totally appropriate.”
Trustee Kathy Hitt also expressed concern about the “punitive nature” of the proposal, however.
“I’m really struggling with that,” she said. “As far as staff morale … it sounds like a real hammer, and I think some of our staff already feel that pressure from some of the things that have been asked by this board.”
Trustee Mike McConnell said he has also observed “angst among our staff” – some of whom “feel a lot of pressure about dictating what they can and can’t teach.”
“I think that creates kind of a divisive environment,” McConnell said, adding that, “as a former classroom teacher,” he would read the “punitive part” of the policy proposal as “threatening.”
Jacobs noted that she also works “in the schools” and understands “when our staff starts to feel like they’re just being hit with one thing after another.”
“I’m happy to just table this for now,” Jacobs said.
If the board does move forward with the proposal at a later date, board chair Trustee Jared Kail said he would want to “carefully consider” the process for addressing allegations about obscene materials.
The proposal Jacobs presented last week left superintendent Mike Harris in charge of that process, but Kail said that set-up “leaves Mike out on a ledge.”
Instead, Kail said, the district could utilize the process outlined in the recently approved instructional materials policy, or “the board … would probably need (to) take a more active role, because we’re the political entity.”
Hitt said she “truly” believes that the district has enough “safeguards in place without adding something else,” but “if we are insistent upon adding something,” she said she would like to incorporate it into the new instructional materials policy instead of creating another “standalone” rule.
“We haven’t even tested (the new policy) yet,” Hitt pointed out. “Let’s give that a chance to work and see how that does before we (do more).”
For more information, call Fremont County School District 1 at 332-4711.