The mask policy, a group’s effort at a Board of Education recall and curriculum purchase concerns have made for increased attendance at recent meetings of the Amery Board of Education.
A Special meeting June 14 saw parents approaching the board over curriculum and library purchases for the 2021/22 school year. Topics such as race, sexual orientation and law enforcement were brought up by parents who expressed concern over what their children could be learning in school.
Scott Carnine of Deer Park said, “I have heard some ideas that you guys are buying books that kind of make the homosexual agenda look more appealing to the young children and that concerns me a lot considering people that follow that agenda and lifestyle die 20 to 30 years younger than they normally would have. I don’t want my daughter desensitized to think that it is just ok to go do something that is going to cause her to die 20 to 30 years early, not only my kid, but other kids too.”
Carnine did not say what curriculum or library purchase he was speaking about specifically, but expressed he thinks elementary age students are too young to learn about certain topics and felt it was more appropriate for high schoolers. “If you do it in high school, I think it would be best if you gave a full disclosure of the dangers of such lifestyle.”
He said he also really didn’t think Critical Race Theory pertained to this community. “I have never seen black people discriminated against here. I don’t know why that has to be pushed. I think it is actually discriminating against white people, making them feel bad. I don’t want my little daughter feeling she is bad because she has white skin. I would just like it cancelled (Critical Race Theory) and taken out of our schools,” said Carnine.
Joe Vierkandt read an excerpt from the book “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone and a review of “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds. The excerpt from Stone’s book used strong language and painted a grim portrait of law enforcement. Both books exist in school libraries and were recently repurchased.
“I did some research on the authors. One of the authors stated his book brings up conversations about white privilege, racial profiling, fear and discrimination, racism and poverty. He (the author) said the novel is about white people not talking to white people about whiteness enough,” said Vierkandt.
Vierkandt said he does not tolerate racism. “As a law enforcement officer for 20 years I put days in our schools to earn the trust and respect of our students and staff, but this anti-police sentiment has to stop. There has to be a rational area where yes, there has to be conversation, but this is overboard. Would you please review some of the books we are going to be providing our children?” Vierkandt asked.
Public Comments were then turned to the subject of masks. Young student Stella Johnston, with her father standing beside her for support, said, “I appreciated my experience at the Amery district until 2020, when it all went down. Masks are unneeded for students and should be removed. Forcing to wear a mask makes my breathing slow down and it makes me feel sick. I can’t see my friend’s smiles and I miss that. For me, being quarantined was hard because school became lonely and staring at a screen made my vision blurry. Please take masks off next time we have school.”
Johnston’s father added, “I noticed the last time you had a meeting comments kids had no problems wearing masks and as a parent, I know we are hearing it at home. I want to make sure you understand there are kids having problems,” he said.
Julie Vierkandt spoke concerning masks as well. “If you are afraid to remove the policy due to a loss of teachers who are afraid to teach our children, then those teachers need to leave. We have great teachers here who love children and love to see them grow and smile and learn new things. The teachers that are too scared that they might get sick from children can go teach virtually at an online school. If they are too scared to be around children, this is not the career they should be in,” she said.
Later in the meeting the board voted unanimously to remove the face coverings policy effectively immediately.
An email sent out by the district the following day said, “Masks continue to be optional and not required for summer school. In addition, masks are now optional and not required for students and staff while on school grounds, on school transportation, and at school events for the school year 21-22 and beyond.”
In personnel action the following were approved:
Sonja Kelly, AIM Advisor
Gina Arntz, Elementary School Secretary
Karlie Moening, Clubhouse Assistant Teacher
Jean Edwards, Speech Language Pathologist
Matthew Briske, 8th Grade Science Teacher
Danielle Erdrich, Forensics Co-Advisor
Lindsey Meyers, Forensics Co-Advisor
Jeffrey Stauner, Girls Soccer Assistant Coach
Andrea Yuhas, AV Coordinator
Allen Carlson, Bus Driver
Shayne Curtis, Destination Imagination Co-Advisor
Robert Elsenpeter, Bus Driver
Carrie Grondahl, Special Education Paraeducator
Kelly Grube, Van Driver
Mark Oman, 8th Grade Science Teacher
Tara Rose, High School Science Teacher
Tara Rose, Varsity Softball Coach
Camiron Schafer, Middle School Cross Country Assistant Coach
Jennifer Swenson, High School Special Education Teacher