Frustration with forced state policy took center stage at the most recent Tempe School District No. 3 board meeting.
“These policies are state law, they were not written by school boards. Every single school district is obligated to legally implement these policies. So, we did not write them, we may not agree with them…we have no choice but to pass them because they are state law, as we took our oath to uphold our state laws,” board member Monica Trejo said at the meeting on Sept. 21.
Board member Patrick Morales explained that as soon as the board even adds a comma to any state policy they are outside of legal compliance. This was shared despite his opinion that Item 8.02, Governing Board policy IHAMB Family Life Education, “is severely outdated and out of touch with most of Arizona.”
This policy outlines that schools must have written consent from a student’s parent or guardian before using any materials that may be inappropriate for the student and providing sexual education instruction.
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“I agree with my colleagues to the left and right of me, there are lots of better mandates that could have been given to us by legislative folks. And it’s unfortunate that it took them months to get to this point…So, whatever,” board member Jim Lemmon added.
Even though board members did not agree with Item 8.02, President Charlotte Winsor shared her gratitude for the rest of the team being wise and proactive in their placement of the curriculum.
Item 8.04, Governing Board policy KB Parental Involvement in Education, was also met with criticism by board members.
This item has two parts: school districts to allow parents access to electronic records that relate to their child, and schools to provide parents access to the school’s library collection and may receive a list of books and materials borrowed from the library by their children.
The board was not as hesitant to the first half of this policy as much as the second.
“This was a proposal that comes from legislation with a great title, but ultimately it is a way to take books and materials out of our libraries that people don’t agree with. Ideally, we want to educate the whole child about everything…when people start talking about limiting books and materials borrowed from the library we go down a slippery slope,” said Morales.
Additionally, Lemmon explained that the state will not be providing any financial support in the removal process. All of the time dedicated by education staff will have to be volunteered, which is a main reason why Lemmon does not personally agree with this item.
“I want to go on record to say that I do not want this to be leveraged so that we minimize our librarians in order to avoid having to comply with this policy. Librarians can and do play an important function in every school,” said Winsor.
Winsor “understands the intent [of allowing parents a list of books their child borrowed]” but also believes it to be short-sighted. She shared that in her youth she frequently checked books out of the library to help answer questions instead of going to her parents.
While there was plenty of personal disagreement from the board, not all state policies were met with hard feelings. Item 8.07, Resolution Supporting a Ban on the Sale of Vaping Products within the City of Tempe, was unanimously approved and supported.
It is obvious through the discussion in this single board meeting that the current officers are passionate and scrutinous, which proves their dedication to serving the Tempe community.