Vancouver resident Sally Snyder shares her recent experience while attending a Vancouver Public Schools 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
On Tuesday, July 13, I attended my first Vancouver Public Schools board meeting. The reason I did this was to advocate for the kids. I wanted to share my facts with the board regarding the vaccine clinic my high school hid from parents. I tried going through the proper channels. First, emailing teachers, my school principal and even the school board. I received a lot of excuses and it didn’t feel like I was being heard, so I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone and attend my very first school board meeting.
I spent a lot of time researching the school district website. I studied the board meeting check-in process, learned how much time you are allowed to speak and watched past board meetings. I felt confident I was completely prepared. But when the other moms and I arrived, it was not quite what we expected.
After walking inside, we were greeted by not one, not two, but four security officers! Wow, in all the years we have volunteered in our kids’ classrooms, we have hardly seen one officer, never four. One of us signed in to speak and we found a seat. As the room filled up with about 50 people, we quickly noticed it didn’t feel very welcoming in the big, quiet, boardroom. Board members sat behind a large row of fancy tables and the board president made an announcement that they would take citizen comments first.
There were many hot button topics. Parents asked how long are our children going to remain behind a mask? Will the school board directed plan for a possible program to have PCR testing inside schools require all teachers and all kids to have mandatory testing? It was said kids 4 years old and up could administer it themselves. Will there be segregation of vaccinated and unvaccinated children? Equity, inclusion, racism, white supremacy, critical race theory all received citizen comment. What will the curriculum be for the school board’s newly passed Resolution #869? The school board resolution states there is systemic racism in all of the Vancouver Public Schools. What anti-racism will the kids be taught? Will other academic subjects suffer? One dad spoke of the low Washington state testing results posted in 2019 (the last published). Another stated she was an activist for many years, and one parent suggested Town Hall style gatherings, not just listening sessions.
Various other important questions were asked. As one IT person stated, how can kids be accessing pornography through their school provided device? Other questions arose after the meeting. It became apparent that there were problems with the video of the meeting that was being recorded for Zoom viewers and for the record of the meeting to later be posted for public viewing. How is it possible to have no audio for the first five speakers at the meeting? And then no visual of any parents/citizens who spoke for an hour and a half at the podium and shared personal stories? I provided visual aids around the vaccine clinic that were hidden from parents. The school e-mailed information out only to students and staff telling kids if they had questions to message them on Instagram or contact the Clark County Public Health Department. This kind of activism is not curriculum. However, it was used that way as students could receive credit for missed work by watching the school produced vaccine webinar promoted weeks before the vaccine clinic.
Both May and June school board meetings had live-streaming of each speaker at the podium, so why not this time? After the meeting some were advised by the district that due to summer vacations they did not have staffing to operate the camera, which meant speakers at the podium couldn’t be seen by those on Zoom.
In the end after all these technical blunders, the district advised that YouTube removed the entire school board meeting off the internet. Citing some of the public comments had violated its community guidelines regarding “medical misinformation.” VPS edited out all of the hour and a half of public comments, even those without medical misinformation, and reposted just the very end of the school board meeting. I hope the technical issues are resolved before the next VPS school board meeting on August 10. Some parents can’t get off work in time to make a 5:30 p.m. school board meeting and they depend on the Zoom technology. Maybe the district could publish this school board meeting on a platform where it can be seen and heard in its entirety? Many citizen comments didn’t have anything to do with medical misinformation, so why were those removed?
While the school board did get to see my presentation with the audio and visuals, it was very frustrating for those parents and citizens who were Zooming, to be in the dark. The district’s own mission statement starts with “In partnership with home.” From my lens, that’s not happening, especially at a public school board meeting, where parents and community members were not allowed to be seen or heard, and in the end completely silenced. Where is the equality in this?
A very disappointed parent, again.