...back to the School Board, that is...
The Gresham/Barlow School District, which sent a student home for wearing a t-shirt with the Battlefield Cross on it, is meeting tonight. Yours truly will put on a coat and tie, my Oregon Honorable Service Medal, and sortie out to remind said School Board what Citizenship means. Here are my remarks for tonight.
Good evening, Chair Piluso and members of the School Board. I am George Schneider,
age 72, a resident of City of Gresham. I am a Veteran, having retired from the Air
National Guard with 22 years of service, in the rank of Major, and having flown in air
combat during the Vietnam War. I am also a retired Multnomah County Deputy Sheriff,
and I served this community for 25 years. I have raised 4 children with the assistance of
this school system. All of them sit on the positive side of their communities' ledgers of
citizenship. I am going to say a few words about such Citizenship.
Today's children, tomorrows citizens and leaders, can only sit on the positive side of
THEIR communities' ledgers if their parents and their schools do their best to inculcate
them with the best qualities of citizens. The recent case of the wrong-headed
administrative action taken against the Moore child tramples one of these best qualities,
and it supported no others. With almost a month to reflect on this disaster and huge adverse press, I am sure that the Board realizes this, but yet, I have seen no evidence
presented of policy reform that would insure that this sort of error is not repeated. If the Board is considering permanent policy changes to modify the insane “zero-tolerance of
violent images” policy, you need to put them out in front of the public. I sense that the
Board lacks proper input to formulate such policy, so I offer to head up or serve on a
committee of citizens to offer a replacement policy. I have no secrets: my suggestions
would be largely a return to the status quo ante on clothing images, which served well
before this Board got swept up in the “zero-tolerance” mania, really nothing more than a
herd-behavior stampede, with the First Amendment being the first trampling casualty.
The present policy, if applied fairly, would change most textbooks, require school resource
officers to dress the same as teachers and prohibit field trips to places such as the State
Capitol, where statuary of armed citizens and soldiers are presented. Everyone in this
room can see how absurd this zero-tolerance policy really is, and yet there is no proposal
to change it. We, the citizens, are waiting for that change, and I suggest that we will wait
no longer than another year. This issue WILL affect the voting on next year's ballot. That
is a promise.
Thank you for your attention.
If you are local to the Portland area, and you have nothing other than citizenship as your duty for tonight, the meeting starts at 7 pm (1900 for Veterans). I will be the "Q-Tip" in the tweed jacket...
School Board AAR: The Superintendent of the School District opened the meeting with a rambly, wonkish speech trying to support the "zero tolerance for violent images" policy. I took notes. An hour and a half later, when it was my turn to speak, I set aside my prepared remarks and hammered the Supt:
1. Supt. Schlacter made no less than 3 attempts to link the horror of school shootings to this issue of the Battlefield Cross. I called him out on it. Illogical propaganda. Boogeyman trick.
2. I requested that the Supt. confer with his attorneys on the subject of "in loco parentis", the legal construct which gives the school the authority of parents. I reminded him that in a case of rules violations, no "deal" can be made with a student, because the student lacks AGENCY to act for the parents.
3. I suggested that Zero Tolerance flies in the face of the school's renewed mission to instill critical thinking skills in students, the better to facilitate STEM education.
4. I suggested that while the school must have authority over students, it should not discard the idea of freedom of speech entirely, see Item #3.
5. I noted that the burden of proof is on the School District to demonstrate that images of the Battlefield Cross are an actual THREAT, and that burden may not be shifted to the student to prove they are NOT a threat.
The superintendent got no applause. I did.