Editor’s note: The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees, like many local school boards around the country, has recently become a battleground of anger and political division. The disputes often are over such issues as COVID-19 mask rules, the treatment of transgender students and how to teach the history of racism and slavery in America.
Stephen Lafer, an emeritus professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, penned the following letter sent to all members of the Washoe school board. “I sent the letter to each of the trustees to encourage them to stand up to the pressures being exerted and stay true to the ethics of what is best for students and society,” he said.
“I think they need to hear from sensible people that anything less is not acceptable and that compromising to make their lives easy, while harming students and society, cannot and will not be tolerated.”— Stephen Lafer, Phd., University of Nevada, Reno, emeritus professor.
Lafer said he hopes his epistle will inspire others to get involved and “encourage board members to act responsibly.” The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees meets twice each month. Their meetings, both live and archived, can be viewed online. The panel’s next regular meeting is scheduled Aug. 24 at 2 p.m.
Stephen Lafer’s letter to school board members
I am writing to ask that you carefully evaluate the ethics of the policies you create. It is particularly important now that you are being harassed on a regular basis by people who want to force you to shape policy to meet their demands.
Those demands are often based on lack of sound information or in misinformation provided them by others who are misinformed or simply ignorant of what constitutes good education and effective instruction.
You cannot allow yourselves to give them an inch, if by doing so students are harmed and their ability to receive a properly-honest education. The unformed or misinformed cannot sensibly inform public policy and any public body or individual involved in making public policy bending to their will is a problematic.
The intent of my letter is not to harass or blame but, rather, to let you know that the courage you show in responding to those who try to force their will upon you will be greatly appreciated, now by sensible citizens, later by those who grow to be sensible citizens because of the education they received, such allowed by the good policies you put in place.
The most important goal of the decent educational system is to help students become effective individuals in a good society and effective participants in that society’s democratic decision-making process. Sane and humane democratic society should always be on the minds of everyone who participates in the educational process and the educational decision-making process.
I hope you will work to establish an individual and collective board ethos that is based on this premise, that only that policy that serves the goal of sane and humane society is acceptable policy. The correlate of that is that you and the board on which you serve never give into that which does harm to the prospect of a better future for all, that “serves the general welfare” and the “common good.”
Stephen Lafer,PhD, spent 30 years teaching English education and socio-cultural courses at UNR. He earned his master’s degree in the Teaching of Writing, taught at the high school level, and then earned his doctorate in Education at the University of Oregon. He is a co-founder of the Truckee River Institute for teachers.