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Split vote approves changes to U-46 policies

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved changes to its policy under Section 7 (Students) by a 4-2 vote on Monday, March 18.
  Board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward voted no on the policy. Board member John Devereux was absent.
  Ward appreciated one specific change, that coming to Section 7.042 (participation in extracurricular activities and athletics), but overall disagreed with several provisions already in the policy. She noted her opposition stemmed largely from existing language in the policy.
  “I understand the purpose of tonight’s vote is to approve policy changes,” Ward said. “However, in my mind voting yes on this policy signifies that I agree with its provisions already in place.”
  A couple of the sections Ward opposed current language from were 7.010, concerning equal educational opportunities, and 7.020, concerning anti-harassment, which include language setting up special protections for certain subgroups of students.
  “As I have explained previously, bullying should be prohibited, period, without the necessity to call out every disparate group of people,” Ward said.
  Costello later echoed that concern saying “simply put, it’s all means all” as the district should concern itself with what the act is and not the characteristics of those students involved which he said is “where it crosses the line.”
  “I think that an act by and of itself is what we should be targeting,” said Costello who added: “A crime is a crime, and that is what we should be looking at.”
  Ward elaborated on the danger that’s presented with the language based on the district including special protection for students based on “gender identity.”
  “The danger exists that when a female student who doesn’t want to share a locker room or bathroom with a biological male will be accused of bullying,” Ward said. “The danger also exists that not using the preferred pronoun for a gender dysphoric student will be considered bullying.”
  Based on the administrations admission, Ward added that the policy “may allow for the participation of biological males in women’s sports. Even feminist and lesbian Martina Navratilova thinks that is a bad idea.”
  Ward also expressed concerns with portions of Section 7.193 (Prevention and Response to Bullying, Intimidation and Harassment) which she emphasized the section which purports to give U-46 power over students “outside of school.”
  The policy “requires school officials to prosecute bullying occurring outside of school if it is brought to their attention and ‘causes a substantial disruption to the educational process,’” Ward said. “That’s pretty big brother-ish and is problematic on a number of levels. Suppose a student posted a Bible verse on social media and another student was offended by it and felt bullied by it?”
  The language states prohibitions on student speech “through the transmission of information from a computer that is accessed at a nonschool-related location, activity, function, or program or from the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased, or used by the School District or school.”
  Ward also noted changes to the policy included references to the Student Code of Conduct which “contains several provisions with which I profoundly disagree, including differential discipline based on cultural background.”
  Board member Melissa Owens pressed Costello on his opposition to the policy and what sections he opposed. He said both the bullying and harassment policies include language focusing on subgroup characteristics rather than focusing on acts.
  “The act is what I think should draw our attention,” Costello said. “Any type of bullying or any type of acts of aggression should be our focus point.”
  Regarding the change to Section 7.042, it will allow for the ability of homeschooled students in the district to take part in U-46 activities, including athletics.
  “I think that’s a fantastic start toward allowing educational flexibility for our families, and I’m very glad to see that in there,” Ward said.




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