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Board discusses federal mandates, computer filters at library

TEN SLEEPING – Resident of Washakie County School District No. 2, Ruth Ann Carter asked board members what they would do if the federal government mandated critical race theory and non-discrimination policies for gender identity, including restrooms.

Board member Marc Dykman said he opposes all issues. “What they are doing to our children is a travesty. We have some autonomy because of the state,” he said, adding that as a new board member he wasn’t sure how much federal funding was part of the district’s total funding.

Board member Bill Murphy said he would echo those concerns and said issues of CRT and gender identity belong in the home, not the classroom.

Board Chair Erin Blutt said she will work to leverage the networks the district has built and work with other districts to fight any federal government mandate.

“I want to use the power that we have by bringing together many small voices,” he said.

Board member Shana Harstad said, “I don’t agree with any of it. I’m against it, but I also don’t understand all the intricacies of the funding. I’m going to work against it.”

Board member Jared Lyman said the Wyoming Constitution provides for local control and “I see no reason to deviate from that.”

Superintendent Annie Griffin said she will support “what’s right for our students, local control is very important.” He said he has a strong network of superintendents to reach out to and he will help inform the board as much as possible.

Principal Robert Griffin agreed with Lyman and that “our local board governs what is taught in our schools.”

Former Business Manager Connie Gay, who was on hand for any budget questions, said State Superintendent Brian Schroeder came out against non-discrimination policies for gender identity.

According to a press release on June 22, Schroeder said, “On May 5, 2022, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced by President Biden that all state and local agencies funded by its sub-agency , Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), ‘Must’ update non-discrimination policies to include new provisions for ‘gender identity and sexual orientation,’ or risk losing millions -million dollars in federal lunch.

“The USDA is acting pursuant to an Executive Order signed on January 20, 2021, directing federal agencies to promulgate or amend rules implementing the Administration’s new ‘Anti-Discrimination’ order. This is important because as the Wyoming Department of Education falls under the affected mandate category, as it receives about $40 million annually in funding from FNS.

“As the Superintendent of Public Instruction responsible for setting the policy of the Department, I immediately oppose this action in the strongest terms possible on legal, political and moral grounds. The Biden Administration was wrong again because this action was illegal, so 26 State Attorneys General linked arms and demanded a repeal. Undoubtedly, the USDA will face many lawsuits once the rules made pursuant to the Executive Order are promulgated.

“This move not only represents the latest example of federal overreach, but another clear violation of state sovereignty. Our Wyoming Constitution (Article 1, Sections 2 and 3) already prohibits discrimination against anyone, for any reason. We don’t need the Nanny State to hold our hands and tell us how to interpret or apply our laws.

The board also discussed but took no action on an addendum to contact Washakie County for use of the Ten Sleep public library.

Currently the district pays the county $2,000 per month for nine months during the school year and an additional $5,000 for textbooks.

Blutt said at the commissioners’ first meeting that they requested the new contract include a term limit, the current contract expires in 2026 and for the district board to have the option to make a recommendation for the a library board member.

Lyman said he would propose a five-year contract, but he also has concerns that the library will not put a filter on computers for children.

“There are no filters and the board refuses to put filters in place, the board’s priority is the public using the computers,” Lyman said.

Blutt asked if her main concern was student access to inappropriate material and she said yes.

Dykman said he agrees and those are valid concerns.

Murphy said he wants to hear the library board’s position on why they shouldn’t put filters on the computers.

Technology director Boyd Whitlock said the filters may have time limits and be available during the after-school program but back at night for the public.

Murphy added, “I think we have to decide, do we consider the library as an extension of the school campus.”

Lyman added that library use has decreased and perhaps the district could look at providing less funding.

Dykman said he will try to attend the next library board meeting on Thursday, July 28 at 4 pm in Worland.

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