BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The board of education discussed a resolution approved by another local board regarding diversity in the district – but several members expressed the view that following suit would be more political than a board of education should be.
The resolution was approved in Piscataway, and recognizes that the district is committed to providing an education to all students, regardless of race, religion, country of origin and more.
Board member Jacqueline Barlow said she would be in favor of approving such a resolution, and would expand it to include other markers as well.
“I think it’s good to be proactive,” she said.
But other board members said they are concerned about approving any kind of resolution that makes a political statement.
“I agree substantively with everything here,” board member Jeffrey Brookner said. “I wrestle though with separating my personal political views with my role as a board member for this school district. I don’t feel it is appropriate to state my deeply held political views as the view of the school district.”
In addition, Brookner said, he is concerned that making such a resolution would be making a promise the board might not always be able to keep.
“We could be getting in a position where we could jeopardize funding, and I think that adopting a resolution like this would be a step too far,” he said.
Although the district does not discriminate against students for any reason, and is committed to diversity Brookner said, anything could change. For example, he said, if Gov. Chris Christie announces that there is a new executive order that school district are obligated to report any undocumented students to customs officials, the district would be required to do so as commanded by law.
“That would be a binding order, and not doing it would be jeopardizing the school district,” he said. “We just don’t know what is going to happen.”
Board member Ann Marie Mead said she does not understand the purpose of such a resolution.
“I’m struggling to understand what the problem is that we’re trying to fix,” she said. “I have never known a board member or anyone to not support students in any way. But we are supposed to be a non-partisan group.”
Brookner said he would support just making a statement that the district supports all students, but Mead said she is not sure she believes even that is necessary.
“I am totally committed to every student and providing to all what is appropriate,” she said. “I don’t want to react to what is happening on cable news.”
“Let’s continue to operate and do what we’ve done,” she said. “I think actions speak louder than words, and there is a code of ethics that says we must follow the law.”
Board member Lynne Hurley agreed.
“The resolution seems political,” she said. “Although I agree with what it says, I don’t think we need to say anything. I fear we will be in a position someday that we will have to say something, but it’s not a problem right now.”
Board vice president Melanie Thiesse, who brought up the resolution to the board, said she just wants to reaffirm to the community that they are for all the children.
“We are committed to educating them and getting everyone to realize that we are so different, and that is great,” she said. “Because this was coming up in other districts, I thought we should talk about it.”
No decision about passing a resolution or making a statement was made.