WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio – The Lakota Local Schools Education Board voted 4-1 against a resolution that would remove current COVID-19 security policies during a board meeting Monday night.
The new board member Darbi Boddy was a few sentences to present the decision – who questioned the effectiveness of wearing masks and stated that the total number of COVID-19 deaths had been “overestimated” – when board member Isaac Adi interrupted her with a call to the question, a procedure to stop debate and vote. Two other board members sided with him, and the board proceeded to vote on the resolution without further discussion.
Boddy was the only vote for the decision before the board, which oversees one of the largest school districts in Ohio and the second largest in the Cincinnati region.
The board also looked at changes to its current face-dressing policy during Monday’s board meeting, which Boddy said she would have liked to have repealed.
“I do not want to attach my name to it,” Boddy said of the mask policy during the meeting. “I do not want to be part of this political list.”
Adi, another new member who lined up on a conservative platform with Boddy, said Superintendent Matt Miller should not have the authority to mandate masks at any given time. Demanding masks should be a board discussion and decision, Adi said.
Board Chairman Lynda O’Connor agreed and also stressed the importance of honoring any mask exemptions students may have. The changes will go back to the board’s policy committee for further review and later voting.
Critical race and gender pronouns
Boddy also raised concerns about:
- Who oversees the curriculum.
- The district’s involvement in the Ohio High School Athletic Association due to diversity, equality, and inclusion efforts and forms that call for preferred gender pronouns.
- To give those living outside the district the opportunity to speak during public hearings parts of board meetings.
As the board discussed changes to its curriculum development policy, Boddy advocated a policy that would allow board members, if made aware of questionable or concerning teaching, to go to teachers’ classrooms or request their materials without going through the superintendent. An example of parental concern, she said, is the allegations that Lakota teachers teach critical race theory.
Critical race theory is a concept at the university level that studies racial biases that are present in systems, not the behaviors of individual people. It is often taught in law and other higher education.
“This is a matter of trust,” Boddy said. “We basically put Matt (Miller, superintendent) as the gatekeeper.”
“It’s his job,” replied board member Kelly Casper.
Casper said a shift to a policy where board members micromanage district employees would send a message that the board does not trust its employees.
Later in the discussion, Boddy challenged Miller: “What is he trying to hide?”
Audiences bulged over Boddy over her accusation, and Board President O’Connor asked Boddy to refrain from making personal comments that do not allow for a “productive” discussion.
Miller responded by saying he has nothing to hide, but as the district leader and supervisor of its curricula and learning, he would rather have concerns through him first so he can take a closer look at them and provide support to his staff. He also talked about the constant everyday changes that the curriculum undergoes while teachers work to meet students’ needs from moment to moment.
“Teaching is an art,” Miller said. “We do not hire robots. We hire people.”
The curriculum development policy goes back to the policy committee, consisting of Boddy and board member Julie Shaffer, for review.
The board will continue to work on its policy for public hearings, officials said during the meeting, including further discussion on how to include attendees via Zoom.