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Lake County School Board cowardly response to the recent ACLU lawsuit

February 19, 2013

What follows is an email exchange I personally have had with Mr. Bill Mathias of the Lake County School Board on February 11 and February 12, 2013 and may be independently verified as it is all part of the Lake County School Board public record. As you read it, you should read it from the bottom-up with the most recent email on top. You should particularly note that if you watched his interview on WFTV Channel 9 last night, his “public” opinion is somewhat different than you will read here.

Several Kiwanians in Lake County were invited to his home yesterday afternoon to present our concerns with the blanket-ban of extracurricular clubs in Lake County middle schools which would include Builder’s Club (as a Kiwanian, I also work with our local Builder’s Club). I declined his invitation as Bill Mathias has already stated his intentions. The local Kiwanians were unaware that WFTV Channel 9 was there to interview him at the same time.

The bold, italized comments are mine and not part of the emails themselves. The reader can use them to separate the email exchanges.

I’m thinking this was probably the end of a rational, civil discussion…my answer back to Mr. Mathias…remember, this entire email discussion is a public record under Florida Sunshine Law…

“I’m not disputing the fact that an 11 year old is mature enough for either. I am disputing the fact that due to a fear factor by the board, the board is willing to consider actually increasing bullying incidents around campuses throughout Lake County by a blanket ban on them all. How about the other clubs members as well?

My position, which aired last night on WESH 2, is basically if you remove the word “club” or “group” and insert the word “student” or “child”, you have in effect said to those students that they don’t belong, and because they don’t belong we’re going to keep anyone from being part of anything. It’s the same mentality that kept black students and white students separated in schools because “they didn’t belong”. That’s the concept that’s being taught, whether or not it is the board’s intent, but it is. The same thing was said then as well. That the students weren’t mature enough to handle it. They’re already learning about that during Black History Month this month. The board’s timing could not have been worse.

I do like that you brought up your concerns about your wishes that the room be packed when curriculum is discussed or upon discussion about career tech programs. Sometimes, if a process seems to be working pretty well, such as certain curriculum, then maybe it should be considered as a good thing for the board because it must mean something’s working. Unfortunately, and you perfectly explained it, it’s when something as simple as a club (really) gets the citizens irritated over an issue. As I have said repeatedly, whether I am for or against the GSA is of no consequence. I DO have a problem with how this has made NATIONAL news and casting Central Florida, Lake County, to be exact, as a bunch of back woods, bigoted fools AND for the waste of money that will be expended in the associated court costs. I’m not sure why the board feels that it’s worth the cost. I am, however, certain that this will be remembered for a long time to come.

Should you need more local input regarding the career tech programs in our schools? Absolutely, and I have contacted my district representative in the past regarding just that, either as part of a working group or workshop of career professionals to let the board know what employers look for in tech fields. There really has been no response on her part either. It’s more interesting because I’ve known her for years, and she knows my background. The challenges can seem overwhelming, but by not responding back to the very people who have offered to help does not make people want to jump up and volunteer either. There is a reason for a lack of technology companies in Lake County, the curriculum isn’t condusive to teaching the students anything more than challenging than Photoshop. Other districts in the United States actually partner with organizations such as FIRST, CompTIA and others to help students prepare for tech careers. As a former mentor with FIRST in Lake County, I can remember how often the board gave nothing but “go see the schools, here’s $500, good luck with that” without really getting to know what FIRST is about. This past year, I coached the Eustis HIgh School AF jROTC CyberPatriot team. They did as well as expected given their background (or in this case lack of background) in simple computer networking. That brings me to CompTIA. Are you aware that they have curriculum already established to teach students as young as ninth grade in a field leading to a technical certification? Did you know that a technical certification is often that difference between flipping hamburgers or being in the line at Labor Ready and making a little more than minimum wage for local companies in our area? Unfortunately, I believe that mentality is just one of the reasons why we don’t have very many technology companies in Lake County. I should know, I drive an hour each way to and from Orlando to work at one of the biggest technology customers in the country, the U.S. Navy.

I am glad that you forsee the discussion continuing though; I’m neither as confident with nor in agreement as you are that the ends justify the means with this approach.”

Mr. Mathias reply, we’re now comparing apples to oranges. Seriously…

“My observation was meant to be a compliment. I wanted you to know my position, as part of a civil discussion . Do you really feel that an 11 year old viewing porn is mature enough to process what a mature relationship is?

You may remember the lady who said she was from North Carolina, I google her district while she was speaking and could not find the GSA in middle school. There were multiple stories about high school club. I mention this because I support the GSA in high school.

My position is simple, course related clubs in middle school. Open club policy for high school. Our children’s educational success is rooted in their elementary and middle school experience. I wish the room would be packed when curriculum is discussed, or how about a few show up for discussion about our career tech programs that prepare our youth to be work force ready. Nope , we get a crowd to discuss a club, really.

Mr Moulden, I agree the room was packed with supporters of the open club approach. The discussion will continue, I am confident that the will of the majority will prevail.”

 

My reply to Bill Mathias:

“Mr. Mathias,

How many times I’ve addressed the board is of absolutely no concern and you know that. I’m amazed you brought it up. It so happens that I was raising my children while serving active duty in the U.S. Navy for nearly fifteen years and really haven’t the opportunity to voice my concerns in person. I’ve been around the world enough times to know that I am not the least bit naive. I welcome the opportunity to address the board and will continue to do so in the future when the need arises.

If you would please reread my statement to the school board, you will note that I have neither endorsed nor condemned any club at all. My statement to the board was intended to point out that choosing to disestablish all groups in an effort to deny access to one that we don’t agree with is both illegal and unethical. This action sends a strong message of hate and bigotry to the very children that we should be molding and protecting. My concern is that the word “gay” has caused so much fear and backlash, that the only way “out” for the board was to start considering this decision.

By pointing out how much disdain this school board feels towards this issue, the board has in effect bullied the very students they are trying to protect and that is simply wrong. The board should be ashamed.

While I understand your concerns about neo-nazi’s infiltrating Lake County schools, there already is a Federal law against their formation due to them being considered both a hate group and terrorist organization. To the contrary, Federal law has upheld Gay STRAIGHT ALLIANCE clubs formation.

The number of people who presented tonight in an open format supporting such an organization should have been a telltale sign; I don’t recall seeing any opposition. Conservative leaders and pastors I have personally spoken with regarding this issue have also understood the implication of such a ban. Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for example, is one organization that many may also not agree with but their status is one of being allowed on campus. That was brought up tonight as well and I hope that point was not lost on the board. Please explain what your definition of an academic club is, as one could certainly make the argument based on your logic that sports, band, drama, and cheerleading all do not fall under that category.

If you believe that middle school is not an appropriate age to discuss sexuality and sex issues with our children then evidently you are too far removed from our children. A study of statistics on pornography shows that the average age of exposure to porn is 11 years old (http://www.helpaddictions.org/porn/the-problem/statistics/) and that 70% of teenagers has seen online porn. Studies by the CDC on teen sexual behavior would also indicate that waiting until high school when they are “more mature and able to deal with their individual emerging sexuality” is too late. http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/sexualbehaviors/

In regarding the ACLU, if Lake County School Board pursues this course of action, we will be sued, sensational or not, and bring further embarrassment to the county as well as cost the taxpayers in the end.

In closing, I look forward to attending more school board meetings. You are absolutely correct in the fact that I am passionate about kids and will do everything I can to ensure they have a voice as well.

Regards,

Steven Moulden

Taxpayer and Parent

Eustis High School Class of 1986”

Bill Mathias, LCSB personal response:

“Mr Moulden:

In my short time on the board, tonight is the second time you have addressed the board.  I appreciate your passion for our children.  The decision to address to “club” policy is not founded in the ACLU push for a GSA club.  Although it would be naive to not think it sensationalized the discussion. I do feel in the most informative learning period for a child; academic clubs that foster education are appropriate for middle school.  The reality is that those speaking tonight were passionate about clubs, are the same parents or leaders that would protest if the neo-nazis ‘s wanted a club in our middle schools.

What really bothers me is the sexual orientation club for 6 th – 8th graders.  I am open to the GSA club in high school where the student body is more mature and able to deal with their individual emerging sexuality.

From Bill Mathias, sent from my iPad


On Feb 11, 2013, at 7:00 PM, “Steven Moulden” <
mailto:stevenmoulden@gmail.com                        

Under Florida’s “Public Records” law, absent a specific exclusion, written communications to or from Lake School District employees are considered public records. E-mail communication with this correspondent may be subject to public and media disclosure upon request.”

My remarks to the board were shortened by me to meet a three minute window. This is my email to the each member of the LCSB in its entirety:

“Thank you for allowing me to present tonight.

My name is Steven Moulden and I reside at 560 South Exeter Street in Eustis, Florida.

Members of the Lake County School Board, I wish to express my displeasure with the board’s current position of wanting a ban on all extra-curricular clubs from middle and high schools in Lake County. I am also aware that some members of the board have attempted to clarify this position by stating it would only affect the middle school clubs, while allowing only curriculum-based clubs on campus. I find the board’s stance bewildering which have led to two points that ought to be addressed in order to help us understand why the board is taking this stand.

1.       Banning all extracurricular clubs based upon a decision to fight the pending ACLU lawsuit is an appallingly shortsighted decision. Requiring existing clubs to re-apply only to become reinstated puts this situation back into the very position that we find ourselves in now; this will have solved absolutely nothing, and waste both time and money. Money which is paid by the county taxpayers to whom this board is entrusted and held accountable; this is just one of the reasons many of us are gathered here tonight. The board already suffers from a longstanding image problem concerning fiscal irresponsibility. Losing a lawsuit which should have been smartly avoided will only contribute to that image by making one wonder just how much money will be wasted this time.

2.       The gathering embarrassing national media attention brought to Lake County by the board’s position is shameful. Having elected officials attributed as saying “bring it on” in response to the ACLU shows a cavalier attitude to a serious complaint. Another quote from the Lake Sentinel seems equally as troubling to understand which direction the board should be going:

“Fischer said the district should focus on education and that “social engineering” is not the job of the School Board. “”It is not our job to socially mentor students, but to educate them,”” she said.”

Please explain, in layman’s terms exactly how one educates students without socially mentoring them as well as what the board believes “social engineering” means. The last time I checked, social studies are part of the curriculum and its purpose is to promote civic competence. How does one expect to teach the importance of social studies within a community if one can’t explain how socially mentoring students is not part of the educational process? How does one teach equality of the law without being hypocritical in this instance? This short sided position is only contributing to the dumbing down of our students with regards to both Constitutional history and law while hoping that they won’t recognize that it is being done to them.

The elimination of these clubs will most certainly have a detrimental effect on the students who participate in them. While it is possible that many of the clubs could meet off campus at differing times, the traditions of being associated with a particular school’s club are oftentimes as meaningful as being members of a school’s athletic teams and would lose part of that school’s identity as a result. Would the board propose a ban on sports and bands as well?  Where does the board eventually draw their line of excluding student extracurricular activities? Not every student is an athlete, nor is every student a member of NHS, Key Club, FCA or any number of other extra-curricular activities that you wish to ban county-wide. The ability to remain on campus either before school or after school for an extracurricular club is one of the key ways membership remains steady. By telling them this will no longer be allowed will cause many of the clubs membership to decline sharply or disband completely.

Civic groups in the communities which support service clubs, for example the relationship of community Kiwanis Clubs which sponsor high school Key Clubs and middle school Builders Clubs, may end up not being able to do so any longer if these student clubs do not exist. Oftentimes, these same extracurricular clubs provide the opportunity for students to be credited for their community service hours, which are now a requirement for graduation. Community civic groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary and others also offer scholarships to their sponsored campus clubs as well. Students preparing college applications could very well find themselves with no extracurricular clubs to add while competing for college admission. Eliminate these clubs and you are also potentially eliminating both of these keys for our children’s’ future which the board should be supporting.

Please reconsider your position on this issue as it pertains to our students and their futures.

Thank you.”

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