Lakota Local Schools board approves new visitation policy

The Lakota Local Schools board passed a revised visitation policy Monday evening that member Darbi Boddy claims is designed to curtail her access to school buildings.

The Lakota Board of Education voted 4-1, with Boddy as the lone opposition, to amend its school building visitation policy adding more detailed procedures to how visitors — including school board members — are to proceed with future tours of Lakota’s schools.

Lakota officials said the new policy resolution, which was blasted publicly by Boddy and her attorney on Sunday, updates the old district policy and was done so in part due to advice from the district’s legal counsel and also because of the recent school shooting massacre at a Texas school and other deadly school attacks nationwide.

Lakota Board President O’Connor said prior to the meeting she took exception to Boddy’s public claims the new policy targeted her in response to Boddy’s two unannounced school visits in May where she declined school administrators offer to be escorted through hallways.

The resolution was designated as an “emergency” policy proposal so it will be in effect in time for Lakota classes opening next week for the new school year. To permanently amend the policy, the board will vote again on the same policy at its meeting later this month as a formality.

Boddy said “my colleagues are afraid of a board member doing their job,” who has said her visits to the two schools were in part to find examples for her allegations of Critical Race Theory and of LGBTQ-influenced lessons being taught.

But her fellow board members said Boddy is misinterpreting aspects of Ohio law and what freedoms school board members have to inspect schools.

Moreover, members and district officials said the new policy does not restrict access to board members but rather clarifies the procedures required to assure prior notice of a visit and conducting such a visit in a non-obtrusive manner that will not interfere with student learning.

Member Kelley Casper said Ohio law does not state an individual board member has the authority “to just go in and arbitrarily start walking through buildings and looking for things that we as the individual board member think are not right or correct.”

Member Isaac Adi said school security is most important and added the amended visitation policy “gives us a guideline for visiting classes but it doesn’t prevent me from visiting classes.”

Fellow board member Julie Shaffer said if school parents are concerned about possibly inappropriate curricula being taught, the district has a number of options where they can bring the lessons in question to the attention of district officials.

“Our parents have ample opportunities to bring anything forward,” said Shaffer.

Lakota officials have contended repeatedly that CRT is not taught to the district’s 17,200 students and that other issues brought up by Boddy refer to state-mandated Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curricula for Ohio’s public schools.

District officials said they are in the process of arranging a third-party review of Lakota curricula for any CRT components.

In other board action, Boddy saw an attempt to pass a resolution preventing transgender boys from competing in girls’ sports defeated by a 4-1 vote. Members in opposition pointed to pending state legislation coming soon to address the issue and install such a prohibition. They said Boddy’s resolution is premature and will soon be unnecessary.

District officials said there have been no instances in the past, nor are there any currently, where a transgender boy has attempted to participate in girls’ athletics.

And the board also voted to postpone indefinitely Boddy’s third attempt this year at passage of a resolution that would disallow all COVID-19 safety precautions employed by Lakota since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

In her closing comments Board President Lynda O’Connor said the board is finding itself unduly mired in non-productive issues rather than focusing on maintaining and strengthening the academic quality of education in the 24-school district, which is the ninth largest in Ohio.

“There has been too much negativity and too much drawing of our energy from what is relevant to our kids,” said O’Connor.

Lakota resident Carolyn Brace told the board “keep your political agendas off our school board.”

Classes for the 2022-2023 school year will begin with a repeat of the staggered opening employed by Lakota last year where students are divided alphabetically by first letter of their last name with half starting school on Aug. 16 and then the remaining students having their opening day on Aug. 17.

All students in 1-12 grades will then attend together on Aug. 18 with kindergarten students beginning their schooling on a different schedule.

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