Citizens comments: masks, equity in education, mental health

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Citizens comments: masks, equity in education, mental health

Wed, 06/16/2021 - 12:14
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During the June 8 school board meeting, citizens commented on the district’s mask mandate which continues through the final day of school.  Commenters urged the school board to remove the mandate immediately.  Other topics discussed before the board included mental health resources, equity in education, as well as the promotion of COVID vaccines for 12-15 year olds. 
Ryan Oliver, director of development for Peaceful Pastures therapy spoke to the board about the importance of mental health resources for children.  Peaceful Pastures is a mental health practice located just outside of Brooksville.  Oliver stated that they have had many Hernando County parents approach them with concerns for the accessibility of mental health care for their students. He remarked that Peaceful Pastures is a resource to help fill that gap and hopes they can partner with the school district.
Jessica Oliver, owner and founder of Peaceful Pastures Therapy and the primary therapist explained that when she worked as a Sumter County school counselor, there weren’t many options available to provide mental health services even though there was funding for it. She decided to establish a mental health resource for local children and families.
Theodore Shepard, a parent of students who attend Hernando County schools, spoke to the school board about the equity in education topic.  “I read some articles in the Hernando Sun that I found quite disturbing. These articles have to do with some of the training programs that this school board has implemented, in particular the equity in education program.  This program denounces merit and meritocracy as detrimental.”  He asked if you ever had a loved one with a serious health condition undergoing a surgery, wouldn’t you want the surgeon to have been trained under a system that prioritizes talent, ability and effort?  Would you really want to live in a world where merit is not valued?
He also finds claims within the training program that assimilation is damaging to be disturbing.
“If you remove that which unites us, you should expect that which divides us to increase,” Shepard stated.
He said that equality and equity are not the same thing. While in equality everyone is given a chance to succeed, the concept of equity he says is deeply flawed because the pursuit of equity means treating students unequally to guarantee that everyone comes out of school and has learned the same thing.
The training defines color blindness as the ‘misguided practice of just seeing people as people.’
“The purpose of education should be to build up the minds of our youth with knowledge, not to reduce people down to the color of their skin,” said Shepard.
Diane Liptak asked the school board, 
“As for critical race theory- teacher training in education materials. Mr. Stratton told us last time that critical race theory would not be taught in the schools- not in Hernando County and that the educational materials that were purchased were done so without knowledge of them containing critical race theory information.  Well, have the educational materials been pulled and destroyed? Which is what needs to happen. And have the CRT training sessions for the teachers - have they been cancelled? Or are they being required for next year also? I’d like to know are you going to get rid of these materials? Are you going to stop this training?”
Ariel, a Hernando County resident, spoke to the school board about an event happening at Challenger K-8 promoting the COVID vaccine for 12-15 year olds.
She explained that Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are mRNA vaccines and are DNA altering.  mRNA vaccines have not been approved for human trials and they have very questionable results in animal trials. She said she would be happy to share information on the vaccines with the school board and why she believes they should not be promoted, especially for children who are not affected by COVID.  She stated that there is only an emergency authorization for this vaccine. It is not FDA approved. “There’s zero liability for vaccine creators and distributors and it just confuses me as to why in Hernando County we’re promoting an experimental vaccine for children who are not affected by this virus and we don’t know how this vaccine is going to affect them.”
The Superintendent and Board members are given an opportunity to respond to citizens' comments. Additionally, staff members are under no obligation to answer questions posed during citizens comments, unless directed to do so by the board chair or superintendent.
Board member Jimmy Lodato remarked, “I know that you are alarmed by Critical Race Theory, but this district does not teach critical race theory. Now you can sit there and listen to all the mumbo jumbo and all the ghosts that are out there that are saying this is being done.  Prove it. Give me one person who can say this is being done. And if it is I’ll speak to the superintendent about it and we’ll see what we can do. But I don’t know of anyone who would defy the governor or defy the commissioner of education Richard Corcoran...”
Superintendent Stratton echoed Lodato’s comments on Critical Race Theory and said he didn't have anything else to add. 
Stratton also stated that there are certainly more mental health facilities and resources needed for children in this county as any child with a serious condition must be treated at a facility outside of the county.  He hopes that partnerships can form in order to provide more resources for this need.
Chairman Prescott and board member Kay Hatch congratulated graduates and thanked all the teachers, staff, administrators and principals who worked hard under difficult circumstances.
 

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