Dexter Board of Education member Barbra Read is going to be attending the Michigan Council of School Attorney’s fall conference on October 22. This is a get together between Michigan attorneys who represent public education interests in the state and policy makers who create and maintain the rules of the road that the state’s numerous school boards must follow.
This conference, at the Grand Traverse Resort, outside Traverse City, will be focusing on some of the most pressing legal issues that school districts around the country are facing. Topics such as gender identity and cyber bullying, as well as questions including how to go about investigating sexual assault or handle open carry laws in public schools are just some of the weighty topics fielded in conversation.
“It seems to me that there are some legal issues that aren’t going away any time soon,” Read said. “The presenters are some of the well known law firms who have dealt with these issues in the past and would be presumably dealing with them when they come up with school districts in the future.”
Read cited the recent legal battle over open carry permits in Ann Arbor Public Schools as one motivational factor behind her attendance. While it may not have any practical application to what happens in Dexter’s schools, Read felt that hearing what others have to say on the topic is worthwhile from the perspective of broadly understanding public education policy trends.
In the case of the AAPS gun case, the school district recently won their court case in the county court system, but plaintiffs are getting ready to appeal, according to Read, who would prefer that Dexter have some knowledge base from other informed policy stakeholders should it ever find itself in such a situation, however unlikely.
“At this point, if you’re aware someone has a gun in the school, you have to do a lockdown. You don’t know when they walk in whether they have an open carry or they don’t. It’s disruptive, it scares the children, (and) it puts a lot of work on the teacher because now they have to be calming the children. I think it’s incredibly disruptive and possibly dangerous,” Read said.
Dexter does not have a policy like Ann Arbor on guns. But Read says that they have been watching the case carefully.
The largest issue facing Dexter, and public school districts in general, Read said, was a lack of funding.
“Not that money solves everything. But we’ve gotten to the point where every year we cut a million or more dollars from the budget. The problem compounds. We’ve done a really good job, in Dexter, of keeping the cuts away from the kids. But the teachers have taken on a large part of the burden of that. And there’s no end in sight that I can see,” Read said.
The total trip will cost the school board $293, according to Read. $180 for the actual classes, $90 each. And $113 for room and board expenses for a one night stay. There is no way to connect to the conference online.
This is for half of the conference, on Friday, October 22. The full conference, which lasts Friday and Saturday, would have cost $349, according to the booking website.
The school board approved the trip previously at the September 14 regular meeting. The board has money reserved for members to expand their education, including trips to conferences.
“We discussed that at the last meeting,” Read said. “To make sure that if other board members want to … take other educational opportunities there would still be money in the account to do that.”
So far Read is the only board member who is going. However, it is possible that other board members may choose to go.
This conference is hosted with the Michigan Association of School Boards. This statewide nonprofit includes over 600 boards of education.
“The mission of the Michigan Association of School Boards is to provide quality educational leadership services for all Michigan boards of education …..” MASB said on their website’s about us page.