Dori: Parent permission for Marysville school clubs becomes `hot button’ over LGTBQ issue

May 12, 2022, 5:39 PM
Marysville School District...
(Marysville School District)
(Marysville School District)

Is it promoting parent involvement? Or is it meant to stifle students’ gender identity?

That’s the controversial question being asked after the Marysville School Board introduced a first reading of a policy change that – if approved – would require parents to grant permission for their student to participate in any of the district’s after-school activities.

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Like all other school districts in the state, the 10,990-student district in Snohomish County already requires parent permission for any kindergarten-12th grade student to participate in an extracurricular after-school sport, board member Keira Atchley told The Dori Monson Show Thursday.

The intent of the proposed policy change, Atchley told Dori’s listeners, is to assure that parents “have the ability to know where their children are at all times.”

Then why is this a hot-button issue? Dori asked.

“We are being accused of attacking the LGTBQ community,” Atchley said.

Teacher union pushback started two days after Monday night’s meeting.

According to an email sent Wednesday to Marysville Education Association members, MEA president Becky Roberts circulated a “call to action.” In it, Roberts asks staff members to use an attached fill-in-the-blank letter “expressing the damage” this policy change would inflict by increasing “barriers on LGTBQIA+ to gain access to safe GSAs (Gay/Straight Alliance or Gender/Sexuality Alliance clubs).”

The memo from the teachers’ union president also urged members to email board members daily before the upcoming May 16 meeting. In it, Roberts asked members to “share this link with supportive parents and community members so they are able to email the school board as well.”

Roberts told union members that the board’s proposed policy modification is in response to the district’s “Safe Space Club” for students who identify as “LBTBQIA+ and did not feel supported enough at home.”

“It’s disheartening that we’re being made out to be attacking a specific group of children at all,” Atchley said. “By requesting parental permission, we are being inclusive and respecting parents’ rights. Our schools should be a safe space. If we can’t be inclusive to that, what are we doing?”

Marysville’s school board consulted with lawyers in crafting the proposed change, she added.

Before adopting any change, Atchley said, board members need to consider parent permission requirements in case a student becomes “injured – mentally, emotionally, physically” on campus.

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Without parent permission, Atchley posed, “Is there a legal responsibility?” If parents don’t know their student is involved with something that leads to harm, “Is that up for lawsuit?”

Despite arguments from some community activists, she said, “we are not banning LGTBQ clubs.”

The proposal is not about “outing any child,” the board member explained. “Parents need to be involved. They have the right to know where their children are at all times.

“We need more parent involvement – not taking parents’ rights away.”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Parent permission for Marysville school clubs becomes `hot button’ over LGTBQ issue