School Board 3-22-13

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 22, 2013

Parents criticize board

By Rupert Howell

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Between 60 and 70 parents and patrons at Tuesday night’s monthly school board meeting heard three speakers complain of recent decisions made by South Panola School administrators following two separate incidents occurring during February. 

Complaints centered on the school dress code and allowing a trans-gender student special privileges including dress code variations. Also addressed was a memo warning staff of potential liability when using religious comments in school based emails and communications were main topics.

Cole Whittington reminded school board trustees, “Actions have consequences,” stating that the district may have a, “completely new school board in the next school board election.”

Heath Fullilove was first of the three to address trustees beginning with, “I don’t know why we change (the student dress code) for one student,” referring to a male high school senior who is seeking to go through a gender change.

School officials decided last month to allow the student to dress according to his preference and to refer to him as “she” after school attorney Colmon Mitchell met with the student, a parent and an ACLU attorney. School officials also made arrangements for the student to use the administrator’s restroom in the school’s office area.

“Why is he (the trans gender student) getting his own policy?” Fullilove asked the board.

Attorney Mitchell answered, “The law dictated what the board did.”

Whittington said, “I’m disappointed in this school board making the easy decision.”

Robert Ellis spoke last saying, “The ACLU muscled us. You caved under pressure,” he told trustees.

Ellis read aloud the oath given to public officials when they are sworn into office. He also read a portion of the Mississippi Constitution that prohibits excluding  the Bible from use in Mississippi schools, stating the school is breaking the law “…and any one of these teachers can file a lawsuit if they so choose. We (the school district) are breaking the law.”

Trustee board president Sandra Darby told the crowd that the board had not taken the issues lightly and discussed the issues not only with local school board attorneys but attorneys from state and federal perspectives.

Attorney Mitchell later confirmed that not only did every lawyer in his firm look at the issue, he had also talked to lawyers state-wide including the lawyer who handle a precedent setting case in Pontotoc County similar to South Panola’s issue.

Darby told those gathered that trustees used their insight to spend local tax dollars on educating every child in the South Panola District not in federal court.