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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Bret Howell: It’s time for a new CVSD board

By Bret Howell

By Bret Howell

To the voters and citizens in the Central Valley School District: I am very grateful to have this opportunity to respond to the Central Valley School District Board’s Open Letter published Sept. 14. I agree that there have been many accomplishments over the last few years, including the building of new schools and facilities that have greatly benefited students and staff. Improving schools and creating positive environments for our students and teachers is of paramount importance as this benefits the community in its entirety. We must be unified in pursuing this goal to ensure our students have every possible opportunity for a bright, productive future.

The board mentioned good things in their letter, such as “managing to navigate some very challenging times, working together, and improving quality of education for our children while keeping our children physically and emotionally safe.” These are very powerful and unifying statements that sound and feel good when read or heard. The letter was well written and initially left me with a sense of hope. However, their actions show these are empty words.

I have two young special-needs children in CVSD and their quality of education was not improved in any way over the last 18 months. In fact, their academic performance plummeted as a direct result of mandates that defied common sense, and went against my parental preferences and their doctor’s written orders. My children were forced to do things that were degrading and humiliating for the purpose of protecting public health while simultaneously damaging my children’s physical and mental health.

The board’s letter stated the importance of keeping our children physically and emotionally safe but the board and district led by Superintendent Ben Small have directed safety protocols that we know have negative mental health effects. For more than a year the emotional health of children has been disregarded in favor of one-size-fits-all mask mandates. The board and Mr. Small was asked to produce one peer-reviewed study that concluded the benefit of masks is greater than the harm they do to the children. They ignored this written request as they have many others.

A coordinated fear campaign conducted by public officials and the media has conditioned children to believe people will die if they take off their masks or go near others without a mask. This hysterical attack on the children is confusing and destabilizing. Raising a child who has no hope is a terrible thing. Teaching a child the school has the authority to override a parent’s direction is dangerous.

The board mentions the power of working together, yet on Aug. 23 President Debra Long closed a public in-person school board meeting, walking out on over 100 parents and citizens who were there to voice their concerns, and why? Because some of them refused to wear the mask. The irony is less than 24 hours earlier nobody was at risk but as it has been for 18 months, an artificial date determines when we are and aren’t “safe.” Does anybody ask why it was safer Aug. 22 than it was Aug 23? Whatever happened to 15 days to flatten the curve and President Biden telling us we would be immune once we get the vaccine? All lies!

The board must always remember it works for citizens and their children – not the superintendent, not OSPI, not the governor. The board has lost their way. They have resumed virtual board meetings, which limits participation. Last Monday, when the only speaker on the 30-minute public comment agenda asked for an additional two minutes, Debra Long told her she could have one and asked her to hurry. The speaker was an expert in children’s mental health and the board wanted nothing to do with what she had to say. They had more important things to do but won’t tell us what they were.

It’s time for a new board. One that will be respectful, listen and advocate for the health and safety of all children, including those with special needs that they now conveniently place in plexiglass cages in the rear of the classroom. Personal and parental choice is an important consideration when balancing the physical, mental and emotional health. It is time for all of us to start working harder to heal our community during this horrible pandemic. The solution must stop being more destructive than the problem.

Bret Howell is a write-in candidate for the Central Valley School District board director, position 2.

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