Much to the chagrin of Dublin Schools Superintendent Roy Neff and Board of Trustees President Mike Jurney, the Dublin Independent School District adopted the state’s recommended policy regarding the controversial new law, Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act.
The new law is mandated by the state legislature for all districts to be in compliance by Sept. 1 and is designed to protect and promote a student’s right to not be discriminated against for speaking on religious views or including those views in homework or classroom assignments.
Garron House led the way for adopting the state’s policy after much debate during Tuesday night’s board meeting, saying, “We’ve had students speaking before and we’ve had nobody carrying on like you all are talking about. I think we’ve got high-class people here - at least I hope we do. If they get up there and say something they shouldn’t - if they do - they just, do I guess.”
He made the motion to approve the state’s policy included in the bill against the advice of Neff. The motion carried 4 to 2 with Mike Jurney and Rodney Teton voting against. Board member Travis Barnes was absent.
House said he had read that the state would defend any lawsuit brought against a district, but only if the state’s policy was adopted as local policy.
“That’s a lie,” Neff said. “The attorney general’s office only defends the state. They never defend a school district.”
House said he still believed the state’s policy was the best option for the district, but Neff maintained that he was against it.
“It’s in absolute violation of what the Supreme Court said. The federal government overrules the state. It’s going to be shot down - it may be two or three years. All it is - is a way to get prayer back at the football games,” Neff said.
Jurney showed his frustration with the new law by saying, “I hate the whole deal. I think it’s irresponsible on the lawmakers’ behalf.”
Jurney said he felt a student might say something that they would later regret.
“My problem is there is absolutely no protection of what they’re (students) going to say,” Jurney said. “There needs to be some limiting or narrowing of what they can say.”
Neff wanted the board to adopt the Texas Association of School Board’s (TASB) recommended policy because it allows speakers from the top two grade levels of the school, while the state’s policy limits speakers to student council members or the captain of the football team.
Neff said there has been no problems with student speakers in the past, but the TASB policy addresses it should a problem arise.
Joe Willingham could see nothing wrong with who the student speakers would be under the state’s version and thought the district should leave open other events where students could be allowed to speak throughout the year rather than just football games and opening remarks at the beginning of the school day.
“I don’t quite get what the problem is,” Willingham said.
Neff said if the speakers come from the top two grades then everybody’s equal.
“That’s fair. This is America for crying out loud,” Neff said. “Anyone should be able to speak.”
Neff finally went on to say by singling out student council members, the state was in essence suggesting selection of people “who think like us and look like us.”
Willingham said, “I don’t see why you would even think that’s the way this is written,” and argued that any student could arise to those positions of honor.