Letter: Concerned Washougal parents kicked out of school board meeting

Washougal resident Patricia Bellamy details a recent incident between parents and Washougal School District staff at a school board meeting

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com 

Patricia Bellamy
Patricia Bellamy

On May 11th the Washougal School District discriminated against and harassed three female community members. We came to a scheduled public meeting to speak about Critical Race Theory and mask mandates for our children. The agenda had “Policy 0050-Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” which the parents believe contained critical race theory. 

The board voted to end the meeting before it ever really got started. They claimed there was a disruption when one member would not put on a mask due to medical and religious exemptions. Vice Superintendent Aaron Hansen and Superintendent Mary Templeton told everyone the meeting was over and we needed to clear the board meeting room.  

We left and observed the school staff heading to their cars. Our phones began ringing as concerned parents informed us the board illegally started another meeting, as shown on Zoom. They are required to provide 24-hour notice before any new meeting can be held.

The three of us returned, only to discover the doors were locked. All school board members, teachers and staff from the earlier “adjourned” meeting were inside. They refused to let us in, even closing a window so we could not hear the discussion from outside. They proceeded to laugh and mock us from inside.

Someone inside called the police, demanding we be removed for trespassing. Two police officers showed up. One spoke with school officials inside, and the other spoke with us.

The police issued each of us a “trespass admonishment,” prohibiting us from being on any school owned property for one year. If we enter any school district owned property for the next year, we face prosecution for “criminal trespass.” Furthermore, the admonishment stated: “should you trespass and commit another crime, you may also be charged with the crime of burglary.”

This means we cannot drop our children off at school, or pick them up after class. We cannot attend parent teacher conferences in person, nor attend any sporting or community events to support our children, on school property. We cannot attend PTA meetings. We cannot attend graduations. We cannot pick our children up at school if there is a medical issue.

It appears there is no way to challenge this trespass admonishment besides civil litigation.

The board has since indicated they will move all public meetings to zoom due to “Covid” until further notice. There will be multiple restrictions, including having to submit questions or comments in advance of the meeting. This gives the board members the opportunity to prescreen remarks before allowing you to speak.

It would appear the Washougal School District employees and board members violated numerous RCW’s. We have hired an attorney to investigate these matters and evaluate our options for legal recourse.

We believe all taxpayers and especially parents of school children have the right to attend school board meetings and to share their concerns. The school board is supposedly elected to represent the interests of taxpayers, the students and their parents.

This group has demonstrated their lack of tolerance to Washougal parents and citizens. They have shown they do not appreciate diversity of thought nor of opinion.

Sadly, our Washougal School Board and the school district administration are willing to play games with the citizens, ending school board meetings and then reconvening them after excluding citizens. The school board and the administration are willing to call the police, demanding citizens peacefully attending a public meeting, be cited for trespass.

We do not believe this represents the attitudes of a majority of the good people of Washougal. Are these the types of people we want managing our children’s schools and overseeing curriculum?

Washougal schools can do better. It’s time for a change in the leadership on our school board. It’s time for a change in the administration of our school district.

Patricia Bellamy

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