by Richard Uhlhorn
FROM AND ARTICLE IN THE Christian Science Monitor’s Politics Newsletter by Story Hinckley on 5.30.2021.
After the upheaval of the academic year, it’s perhaps not surprising that school boards across the country have become lightning rods for political debate. As Zoom classes dragged on through the fall and winter – and with many public schools, including those in Fairfax, even now not fully open – heated battles erupted over how to balance the safety of teachers and students against other concerns such as learning loss and mental health.
Apparently there are a number of school boards facing the scrutiny of their constituents across the nation.
On Tuesday night, May 18, the Lake Chelan School Board was officially presented with a Formal Discrimination Complaint that was filed in the Superior Court of Washington. This complaint was signed and notarized by 217 individuals who are concerned with alleged discrimination and harassment against students in the District.
The complaint cites unlawful violations against students in the district such as allegedly segregating, masking and excluding students from school activities “based on their parent’s choice to not allow an experimental vaccination of their children.”
This complaint goes on to claim that the District is not complying with its own District Policy as written in the Student/Parent Handbook that states “The Lake Chelan School Board is committed to a safe and civil education environment for all students, employees, parents/guardians, volunteers and community members that is free from harassment, intimidation or bullying.”
In her opening comments to the School Board, Jacquelynn Dalton, said that 75 percent of parents voted to return to full time school in the Spring which was shut down by the board. Dalton stated that those signing the complaint were no longer trusting the collective board of directors or Barry DePaoli, the superintendent.
The final ASK of Dalton’s opening statement stated: “The concerned parents and community members of Chelan are asking the board to remove the mask mandate, to offer all students the same benefits regardless of inoculation status, and to refrain from any future injections being offered on School District Property.”
DePaoli explained that he and/or the school board were the ones to lift the mask edict. “We don’t have jurisdiction to do that,” he said. Masking requirements come from OSPI and everyone entering the school is required to mask up.
In a conversation with both sides, the issues presented are not so easily addressed.
DePaoli said that being vaccinated, or not, is a personal medical decision of each family. “In regards to the Vaccination Clinic that was held at the School, DePaoli wrote that it was organized, staffed and run by Lake Chelan Health, and that the School Nurses did not participate or administer the vaccine.
“Students needed a signed parent signature to obtain a vaccine,” said DePaoli. Dalton remarked that under State Law individuals 13 and over can make their own medical decisions concerning certain issues like pregnancy without their parents knowledge.
While that may be true, EMS Director Ray Eickmeyer said he could not give a vaccine to any student unless they had a signed parent/guardian permission slip. “The state has made it abundantly clear that anyone under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian signature to be vaccinated,” said Eickmeyer.
Eickmeyer went on to say that there were two reasons for conducting the clinic at the school. First is that the school is a neutral safe ground and that 25 percent of the eligible population was getting it at the school. “It is done for equity reasons,” said Eickmeyer. Most of the vaccinations were given to the Latino population. “Seventy nine percent getting the vaccination at Chelan were Latino,” said Eickmeyer.
He also explained that, unlike the flu and tuberculosis, COVID is strange. “If 10 people are infected, nine will not give it to others, but the other infected individual can spread it to 20 to 30 people,” said Eickmeyer.
The School District sent out a letter to all parents regarding the Clinic with a screening sheet, a fact sheet, and a sheet to guide individuals to register, and each teacher handed out vaccine packets to all students in their advisory classes.
The fact that only 112 plus 12 more that had permission but didn’t show up for a vaccination is indicative that parents made a decision based on information provided to either hold off or have the vaccination administered elsewhere.
One parent has commented when her child came home with the packet and asked if he should get the vaccine, she told him, “Not at this time.”
With regards to the complaint addressing alleged discrimination such as separation of vaccinated and non-vaccinated students, DePaoli stated that was false. In other words, as an example, if a student athlete has not been vaccinated, the school will continue to allow that students participation in his/her sport.
However, when asked why a non-vaccinated student would have to quarantine for 10 to 14 days if he/she were exposed to the virus, but an exposed student who had been vaccinated would not have to be quarantined. DePaoli said the follow the science. Eickmeyer added that the CDC has come out with the ruling. Discrimination?
Since being served with an official Discrimination Complaint, Dalton was asked during an interview if the group filing the complaint was going to sue the Lake Chelan School District. Dalton replied, “That is the last thing anybody wants,” said Dalton. One of the groups big concern is the threat of State required Vaccination Passports. “If we are just following the political line, we are putting kids in danger,” said Dalton.
With the school year winding down and the potential promise of moving to Phase 4 by the end of June will help the District prepare to fully open up to in-person instruction again in the Fall.