We must protect all of our children

By Nancy Peterson

The Davis Enterprise published an editorial on Sunday, Feb. 16, regarding its opinion about my position as a school board member in the volleyball coaching situation at Davis High School. The editorial was correct about one thing: Children do suffer when adults cannot agree.

No one knows this better than my children.

The editorial board took a position about my role as a board member of the Davis Joint Unified School District without ever talking to me. Columnist Bob Dunning also has done the same. I wonder why people draw conclusions about topics they have not researched.

The blog-fest is another topic entirely. My children are students in this community and our local school district. When did it become OK to attack, belittle and debase children? They have suffered unfair personal attacks by certain bloggers and I’m not OK with that. None of us should be.

When adults run for public office, we place ourselves in the position that allows people to write anything they want about us — even lies. But please, for the protection of all our students, leave children’s names, activities, rankings and so on, out of blogs, speculation and rumor mills.

That being said, many community members and DJUSD staff have reached out and worked to maintain safe harbor for my children during this turmoil. To them, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

There are three issues I’d like to clarify:

* As a trustee, I’m greatly restricted in my freedom to speak about specific personnel issues. So while the public wants to have total transparency when it comes to staff, it’s simply not possible.

I can, however, assure you that despite accusations that my votes were based on dissatisfaction over playing time, these claims are simply not true. My decision to vote against a single coach’s variable service agreement in volleyball was centered on board policy and CIF guidelines, as written in the DJUSD Handbook for Coaches.

* Should I have recused myself from voting on the volleyball coaching contract because my child had a history there? Well, my children have histories in football and basketball, too. They also have long histories in countless classes at Montgomery Elementary, Da Vinci, Harper, Pioneer and Davis High.

Should I also recuse myself from all votes that have anything to do with any segment of the school district where my children have current, past or potentially future interactions? Or is the real issue that I didn’t vote the way some wanted me to?

No one asked why another trustee with a history in the volleyball program didn’t recuse. Perhaps this is really about voting the “right” way.

* In the course of dealing with a student issue, any student or family member has a legal right to file a formal complaint and, unfortunately, some families have experienced this need. For the protection of students, the district is legally obligated to investigate each and every complaint and come to a conclusion. Either party may appeal the outcome to the school board.

Just because I’m in an elected position, my family members did not give up their rights as citizens of the community or as students under protection of district policy and California Education Code. I did, however, recuse myself from the appeal currently before the board because the complainant is a family member.

My role as a school board member is to carefully weigh issues and vote in good conscience. I do not believe it is my duty to abandon that ideal, take the easy road and vote only in order to maintain popular opinion.

I did not accept this position for personal favor or power. Any assumption to the contrary fails to grasp the actual workings of a school board. All actions take a majority. I have but a single vote.

I was elected to help enact change and empower students and their families, regardless of their background. Did I expect to have to worry about the well-being of my own family and my children? No, I did not. Did I expect to have my daughter’s tire slashed in the stadium parking lot at school on the day of a vote (or my window smashed nearby only weeks later)? No, I did not. Did I expect that I would have to contemplate acts of retaliation against my children when considering a vote? No, I did not.

As a community, we should not allow fear, intimidation and acts of retaliation to govern elected officials. When such behavior is accepted, no child is safe.

Not mine, and not yours either.

— Nancy Peterson is a Davis resident and a member of the Davis Board of Education.

Special to The Enterprise

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