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By Scott Jensen, Taylor Jacobs, and Mike McConnel – Members of FCSD#1 Board of Trustees
The following are our opinions alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the FCSD#1 Board as a whole.
On April 22, 2023, the Lander Journal published an article insinuating there was a controversy during the Fremont County School District #1 Board of Trustees meeting held on April 18. The discussion surrounded a display in the Lander Valley High School Library labeled “Banned Books.” Those familiar with current events in public schools around the country will recognize this type of display in a school library as a common tactic by activist school librarians to inject their personal political views into the libraries they are tasked to oversee. The display was in no way labeled as a student project leaving reasonable people to conclude it had been created by the LVHS librarian. Some of these people notified members of the school board rightfully wondering why the high school was sponsoring such a politically charged display.
FCSD#1 Superintendent Dave Barker was asked to look into the matter. His investigation revealed the display was a student project and thus permissible. The only question to be resolved was why the display remained without attribution. This is an important question because staff of FCSD#1 are required to remain neutral in religious, political, and controversial matters. Unfortunately, in the past some members of staff have not been willing to remain neutral, behavior the district cannot tolerate. Had the display been created by a member of staff it would have violated district policies INB – Teaching Controversial Issues and GBE – Staff Rights and Responsibilities. Leaving the display without attribution risked leaving reasonable observers to conclude some members of staff are above these policies.
Threats of Gun Violence
In the same article, the Lander Journal published rumors there had been threats of gun violence that had gone unaddressed, insinuating the district doesn’t care about the group of students that felt they were the target of this rumored violence. In the initial printing of the article the Lander Journal seemed to suggest that a member of staff was responsible for spreading the rumor to the reporter. The Lander Journal has, post publication, modified their article online correcting what they claim was a mistake. The Lander Journal in this modified article makes no mention of the article being an updated or corrected version or that the modification occurred. It is unclear how the Lander Journal will modify and correct the printed publication.
According to the Lander Journal’s update, the member of staff did not address the rumored threats of violence specifically, but rather addressed generic concerns expressed by some students. Even though the member of staff did not spread the rumor directly, they were a part of the interview where the discussion of student threats was mentioned. As a district employee this staff member should have clarified any unsubstantiated claims of violence or threats to FCSD#1 students. The rumored threats of any student violence last year during student walk-outs were in fact unfounded. The spreading of this rumor by the Lander Journal and indirectly by staff is particularly egregious behavior as it unnecessarily increases anxiety amongst students and creates fear where none is needed. It also sows the seeds of distrust among students, parents, and the school district. Our community should be able to trust that the students in our community are safe from harm and any substantiated threats to our students will be taken seriously.
A reputable and unbiased news source would fact-check and verify these claims of violence, especially this significant in nature. As a community, we should be able to expect a higher standard of journalism, even from a small local paper. Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy, but to be worth anything it requires those practicing the trade to uphold rigorous ethical and journalistic standards. We sincerely hope the Lander Journal will take steps to correct these errors and will, in the future, become the trustworthy news source our community needs.