Linn-Mar Board Members: “We Should Have Been Informed” Of Governor’s Meeting

Screenshot from Linn-Mar YouTube

In the closed-door “listening session” with Gov. Kim Reynolds and Rep. Ashley Hinson, the main topic was the Linn-Mar School District’s policy regarding transgender students, according to Matt Rollinger, the only school board member who was at the private May 4 meeting.

“There were about, in my estimation, 40 or so speakers, and I would say 95% of those were concerns that we all heard here a few weeks ago regarding the policy,” he said during Monday’s school board meeting. “The voucher bill, if that’s what we call it, was brought up but it was not the main focus of the meeting.”

In April, Linn-Mar School District passed a policy that reflected state law supporting transgender students which allows students to use their preferred name and pronouns, and the facilities which match their gender identity. For students in seventh grade and up, making public the student’s preferences with their family was optional.

After the policy passed, parents in the district showed up at a school board meeting to criticize it. Many said it violated their Christian values or said they were worried about their children sharing bathrooms or locker rooms with trans students.

Some have said they don’t understand why the policy was changed for such a small number of students.

“One thing that was mentioned in the meeting was that, and I feel it’s the reason it happened in the first place, that’s what I took from this comment, was that the governor’s office was flooded with phone calls from concerned Linn-Mar community members regarding this policy,” Rollinger said.

In April, he voted against the policy, which was approved 5-2. Board member Barry Buchholz also voted “no” but wasn’t invited to the secret May 4 meeting.

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Rollinger said he received an invitation to the meeting through his private email and doesn’t know why. He also said he didn’t speak at the meeting other than to thank Reynolds and Hinson for attending.

Rollinger did not tell the rest of the board members about the meeting and said he attended as a “private citizen.”

Other members of the board said that wasn’t enough because community members saw him as a representative of the board.

“When the governor goes somewhere, people notice,” said board president Brittania Morey. “And if it’s about our district, people are gonna start asking questions because it’s the governor. So we should have been informed.”

She said the rest of the board found out about it when the media asked questions, and they shouldn’t have been in that position.

“If you got an email inviting you to a meeting that specifically said it was with regards to the district and you didn’t tell any of us, that’s the part that gets sketchy to me,” Morey said.

She said she or Superintendent Shannon Bisgard should have been Rollinger’s first phone call because he’s a board member above all else.

“We do represent Linn-Mar Community School District and basically no matter what I do on the street, no matter who I see, that’s who I am,” Bucchol said.

Board members Buchhol and Rachel Wall said Rollinger probably shouldn’t have gone to the meeting at all, especially when he learned none of the other board members were invited.

“I do find it a little strange then that if you thought that this was like an equal opportunity thing that you wouldn’t have reached to anyone afterward to say ‘what happened, why weren’t you there?'” Wall said.

She also said the meeting sounded redundant because the board listened to almost three hours of comments about the policy when the board voted on it in April. And this time, the only people able to speak were those who were invited to the meeting.

Hinson tweeted about the meeting after KCRG broke the news, saying, “We heard from parents who are worried about being cut out of conversations & decisions regarding their kids at school.”

Hinson’s two sons go to school in the district and she said she shares the concerns.

Rollinger said it was parents who brought up the voucher bill, asking for an update on its status in the Iowa Legislature. He said the legislation wasn’t the point of the meeting at all—despite the governor’s office providing handouts about the voucher plan.

 

When news of the meeting came out, Reynolds told KCRG the listening session was informative and the focus was on parent choice because parents felt trapped by the policy. She framed the situation as parents being cut out of decisions about their children’s education.

“You know it was an opportunity for me to have an environment where they were comfortable sharing what was important to them and sometimes that gets lost in politics,” Reynolds told KCCI on May 5.

“I want to hear from parents. It’s the right thing to do. We want to make sure parents understand what’s involved in the bill I’m putting forward. It was an opportunity to hear from parents to hear how important it is for them to make the decision on what is the best environment for their child,” Reynolds said.

 

Nikoel Hytrek
5/10/22

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