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Decision by Battle Ground School Board members refreshing in these times of acrimony and dissension

Ken Vance Editorial Clarkcountytoday.com

Members of the community spoke and elected officials and district administrators listened

A refreshing thing happened last night in Battle Ground — citizens spoke and elected officials listened.

This from ClarkCountyToday.com Reporter Chris Brown’s report: A standing-room only crowd showed up at Monday night’s meeting of the Battle Ground School Board. Many were there to voice either support or opposition to a new health curriculum known as FLASH (Family Life and Sexual Health). Ultimately Superintendent Mark Ross asked the board to delay approval of the new curriculum indefinitely.

You can read the rest of Brown’s report on the night’s events here:

Depending on which side of the conversation you’re on, you may have a different view than I do about what happened Monday night. That’s fine. I have no problem with well-informed citizens who have a viewpoint other than my own.

Here’s the way I see it. Word surfaced of the Battle Ground School District’s exploration of the change to a new health curriculum rather late in the process at an unfortunate time of the year when most families and area residents are on summer vacation and not paying close attention to matters that normally impact the months that make up the school year.

Once word got out, citizens mobilized against the change in the curriculum, protesting in large part to the lack of a public process and full transparency by the district. I don’t want that to be interpreted in an accusatory tone, because that’s not how it’s intended. School administrators and board members have decisions to make throughout the year. I’m sure proper notices were made and procedures were followed.

Despite that, in the end, school officials agreed that members of the community may have not had every opportunity to participate in the process, thus the request by Superintendent Ross to have the members of the board delay approval of the new curriculum. It was the right decision to make. Members of a community absolutely have a right to be heard when it comes to what curriculum their public school will present to students. Regardless of where this conversation leads in the coming school year, Monday night taught us that it will be done out in the open and everyone will have ample opportunity to be heard.

It’s refreshing that, in this case, the system worked. We have so many recent examples of the system not working, both locally and nationally. Sometimes I marvel at area residents like those who turned out Monday night in Battle Ground. It seems to me that far too often, their efforts appear to be wasted time and energy when their voice is tolerated but then ignored when actual decisions are made. This was not one of those times.

The culture in our country over the past year and half has disgusted me. I’m sure it’s been hard for many of you to accept as well. There doesn’t seem to be any conversation or constructive dialogue, just vitriol and hate. And, in that type of an environment, how can any positive outcomes be reached?

I wasn’t in Battle Ground last night but the reports I’ve read indicated there was tension, but not enough to boil over into anything unproductive or divisive. Again, I respect opinions on both sides of the discussion, but the culture and tone of a conversation is usually established by the voices of opposition.

And, over the past 18 months, those voices of opposition have often been violent and full of hate. On Monday, that wasn’t the case.

Kenny Smith

Kenny Smith

Brush Prairie resident Kenny Smith was one of the key organizers to the opposition to the new health curriculum in Battle Ground. I think he laid the blueprint for a civil, public discussion in a brief letter he sent to Battle Ground School Board members prior to Monday’s meeting. You can read Smith’s letter here: Kenny-Renae-Smith-Letter

You will notice that Smith’s letter wasn’t inflammatory or accusatory. He was polite and respectful to the elected officials and his opposition was based in reality. He, and those who supported that position, felt the process could be adjusted to better serve the community. And, he was right. And, the district administrators and board members apparently agreed, thus Monday’s decision to delay a decision on the new curriculum while choosing a new path and timeline for that decision.

Some may view it as a victory for those who opposed the new FLASH curriculum, and that may be the case. But, I think the greater victory was that members of the community passionately got involved in the process, there was healthy representation from both opponents and proponents, and a reasonable decision was made. From where I sit, compared to what I’ve witnessed over the past 18 months, that’s a triumph even greater than placing a temporary halt to the adoption of the new health curriculum.

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About The Author

Ken Vance, Editor

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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