The Spencer school district's proposed religious liberty policy is no longer a priority. In a 4-to-1 vote this week, school board members approved not pursuing its development.
Superintendent Greg Ebeling began Tuesday night's discussion by stating, "My bottom line is I don't want to spend a lot more time on this without direction from the board that this is what we need to do, because otherwise I'm wasting time."
Bill Zinn, who was elected to the board in September, initiated the ensuing board discussion by saying, "Most people have contacted me saying it shouldn't be in the schools."
"I'm quite the opposite. I've had many comments for it and a few against," Dean Mechler offered.
"From the feedback I've received, the majority of it has been against it. Not necessarily on a substantive view, but, basically, (from a) is this necessary kind of a viewpoint," Todd Korbitz, the board's president, added. "Although I have had some comments in favor of it, ... I, personally, sit with the is it necessary crowd."
A motion to continue pursuing the proposed policy's development died for lack of a second.
When the motion to discontinue the pursuit of a religious liberty policy received a second, Mechler asked his peers around the board table, "Why wouldn't we want to acknowledge the constitutional rights of students and staff members when we do it in so many other areas? That's really all the policy does. The policy, as it's written now, is largely pieced from current policies that affect other school districts."
"My more conservative nature, to be honest, doesn't like bureaucracy. And, I think the more layers of rulemaking you implement, the more mushy any kind of authority becomes. And, to me, it seems like this issue is dealt with in higher forms of law," Korbitz answered. " ... I just wonder if this is the correct tact to take as a district."
"When I have former students come to me and current teachers saying, 'I'm intimidated. I don't know what I can do and what I can't do,' let's acknowledge what they can and can't do," Mechler said. "I think that's all the policy does."
As newly-elected board member Bob Whittenburg suggested there are issues with the policy's second draft, he then said, "This is a discussion about whether we refine that draft again and what those issues are. I think that process could go on and on, and I fail to see yet what the need is."
Marti Bomgaars then proposed a statement saying the district supports what is protected under the U.S. Constitution be drafted instead of a religious liberty policy. "(In dealing) with people who feel their rights have been violated, then we can at least say, 'Look, we are operating in line with what we've been taught,'" she said.
Following the board's vote to discontinue the pursuit of a religious liberty policy, Ebeling forewarned, "At some point in time, the district will be dealing with this issue."
After Tuesday's meeting, he continued, "Right now, there's not support with the board to move forward with the policy. So, it will just remain on hold for the foreseeable future, or until we have something that we need to deal with. Obviously, it will still be a policy that will live on my computer -- because there's been a lot of time and effort put into it. But, it's a matter of the board right now not feeling like it's wanting to move forward any further with the policy. So, it's going to die for now. But, I still believe that at some point in time the district will be faced with an issue regarding religious liberties and it may have to be taken up again."