Public Speaks Out and Three Rivers School District Board Listens

By Richard Emmons

Josephine County Eagle, July 29, 2021

Yesterday, the Three Rivers School District board held its last meeting before the start of school in September.  The room was setup for 35 members of the community and every seat was filled. There were another 40 more people outside.

The meeting was led by board chair Jennifer Johnstun. She announced the community comment time would be extended from 20 minutes to 30 minutes due to the number of people wanting to speak. The allowed time to comment was reduced to 2 minutes from the normal 3.

Following a lively public comment period, the board continued with the agenda. A motion was made and seconded to adopt the Every Student Policy as revised from the May draft tabled at its June board meeting. The board members’ discussion reflected their own views as well as community comments made in person and in writing to the board.

Board members agreed the Every Student Policy should be amended to define equity, ensure family involvement, and express the district’s zero tolerance policy against bullying.

The board then voted unanimously to delay approving the Every Student Policy until its next meeting in September.

The public comments were very interesting. Of the dozen speakers, about half were concerned parents who were on the fence about whether to enroll their kids in school in the fall or not. The remaining included parents of graduates Three Rivers School District, former educators, and other concerned citizens.

I’ll paraphrase there comments here:

  • A drug prevention specialist informed the board why the racial divisiveness of Critical Race Theory (CRT) will drive kids toward drugs and criminality.
  • Due to last school year’s in-school COVID-19 restrictions, her daughter could not have any contact with her best friend for the entire school year. Neither in the classroom or the playground. This needs to end for this school year.
  • We don’t want girls in the boys bathroom and vice-versa. She wants to know what her child is being taught. She had been unable to step inside her child’s classroom for all of last school year. This needs to change for this school year.
  • It’s time to resist authoritarianism regarding masks and social distancing especially when children under 18 have a 99.998% COVID-19 survival rate.
  • We need to hear stories of how black slaves fought bravely in the War for American Independence in the fight for liberty. This can reduce current animosity between races.
  • Critical Race Theory is reformulated Marxism.
  • As a Christians, we need to love one another, avoid divisiveness, and we’re part of one race, the human race. Supported the iResolve movement.
  • Let’s rent Porta-Potties to provide individual bathrooms available to all.
  • The Oregon Department of Education definition for “equity” was quoted to the board. The board was encouraged to really understand the implications of adopting a policy regarding “equity” to avoid any surprises in September.
  • The school district must emphasize academics again. All students can learn but it takes hard work. On the most recent district report card, only 41% of 3rd graders can read and only 33% meet state standard for mathematics. “Time to stand up for all kids and not throw them to the wolves.”
  • A former school board member pointed out that the school board members will someday need to account before God on how what they did to educate students in the district.  
  • School board members need to remember the First Amendment supersedes what happens in Salem and that children must become literate to succeed in life.
  • “When will we know what you plan to do in the Fall so we can make decisions on what to do for our children’s education in the Fall?”

Board Chair Johnstun allowed five audience questions during the board discussions. This unusual step demonstrated the board’s interest in responding to parents’ need to know what’s in store for the Fall and the nature of the topics being discussed.

Many people left knowing what the district has planned in regard to COVID-19 procedures. Masks will only be required on school buses. In-class instruction begins day 1. Larger student cohorts. They also know these plans can change overnight if policies change in Salem.⁣

Richard Emmons is the Publisher and Editor of the Josephine County Eagle. https://jocoeagle.com/