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Letter: School board must be accountable Jun 15, 2022

  • I have no reason to doubt that every member of the school board for Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools wants the best for our kids, but good intentions without the courage to lead and provide oversight doesn’t work.

School safety, racial allegations, distance learning and other distractions have burdened the district’s children with more emotional stress than they need. So, can someone on the school board please tell us how questioning students (including seventh-grade boys and girls) about how often they have sex, and with how many different partners, will reduce that stress?

Does it help to ask children if they’ve considered or attempted suicide, or whether they identify as asexual, bisexual, pansexual, gay, lesbian or something else? I cannot imagine any rationale where that kind of questioning at school helps emotionally stressed kids. Nevertheless, students were asked to respond to these kinds of personal questions in a 112-question survey recently administered in our district.

Of course, I didn’t learn about this from a district newsletter or the superintendent’s newspaper columns. I learned about it from distraught parents who learned, after the fact, what their children were being asked.

To learn more, I questioned a district spokesperson. The written response I received was that the survey was a “collaboration of local schools and MN Departments of Education, Health, Human Services and Public Safety” and that the board members neither “approve or disapprove any survey.” I emailed the chair of the school board to verify if that was true. My two emails went unanswered.

Asking PLSAS grade-schoolers about their sexual activity is not a new phenomenon. In 2018, I discovered the district had administered a similar survey to children as young as the sixth-grade, without parental knowledge or approval. Believing that was in direct violation of both state law (121A.065) and federal law (Protection of Pupil Rights Act), I subsequently expressed concern in writing to the board chair. He responded as though he was unaware and unconcerned, but advised in writing that he would refer the matter to the superintendent. I heard nothing back.

I subsequently made the difficult decision to refer the matter (including a copy of the survey) to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Mary Ricker,

commissioner of the Department of Education. In effect, the response I received from the attorney general’s office was that it was not their problem, and from the Department of Education that I had no standing to file a complaint since I didn’t have a child in the school.

I believe this level of uncontrolled bureaucracy is what some writers have referred to as “the deep state,” in which unelected bureaucrats set policy and priorities based upon their political persuasion instead of what’s right under the intent of the law.

School board members should represent and be accountable to parents and residents. Rubberstamping policies and procedures prepared by the superintendent or administration or, worse, by politically appointed bureaucrats in St. Paul, without meaningful oversight, is wrong. 

Wes Mader

Prior Lake

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