Wisconsin Family ConnectionWeek of June 16, 2008 - # 734
The Multiplied Power of One
“The multiplied power of one.” I love the concept and talk about it every chance I get. It produces some of the best stories we know—stories about people who are getting involved at the local level, communicating the truth and positively impacting their community and culture. Here’s one of the best “multiplied power of one” stories I’ve heard in a long time!
Last week, we received an email from a concerned citizen in West Bend informing us of a harassment policy that the West Bend School Board was going to vote on last Monday. The West Bend School District already has a harassment policy in place. For some reason, however, the administration decided to write a new policy that went far beyond the requirements of the state law and far beyond their existing policy. To my way of thinking, the new policy closely resembles the so-called “hate crime” laws proposed at the federal level.
Among a number of disturbing changes to the existing harassment policy, the new policy gives a sweeping description of but no real definition of harassment. The policy simply says that harassment can include verbal or physical conduct based on a person’s protected class that has the “purpose or effect” of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive atmosphere or interfering with a student’s performance.
Questions beg to be asked. First of all, what is a protected class? According to this policy, it’s one of 13 or more “conditions” that the school board decided needed to be protected, including sexual orientation and physical, mental or emotional disability. So, would the school board protect pedophilia? That falls into a “sexual orientation” category! Why even create protected classes? Why not just protect everyone at the school, regardless of whether they fit inside one of these artificially created classes?
The danger with this policy is that it gives anyone who claims to be “intimidated” or “offended” an unfair advantage because the policy is not based on actual behavior but on verbal or physical conduct that is perceived to be offensive or intimidating. Imagine what would happen if a Christian student expressed his opposition to homosexuality and a homosexual student took offense. Under the proposed, ambiguous harassment policy, that Christian student’s rights would be trumped by the homosexual student’s feelings.
The state policy on harassment requires only that schools not discriminate against students; it does not address student to student behavior. The proposed West Bend policy, however, specifically addresses employee and student behavior.
As a former teacher, I recognize the value of student-to-student policies regarding harassment and bullying—and it is within the district’s authority to create a harassment policy. However, the district goes outside its jurisdiction when it creates special, protected classes and puts a limitation on the free speech rights of students.
My point is school boards have a great deal of latitude when it comes to creating school policies. It is not only crucial but absolutely necessary for parents and members of the community to be aware of district policies and activities because of the amount of power we grant our education system over our children’s lives.
Parents and community members in West Bend did exactly that last Monday night when they attended the School Board meeting and voiced their concerns about the proposed harassment policy. One concerned citizen alerted other parents and community members, did some research, spoke to the experts and encouraged others to do the same.
The result was that the School Board listened to the citizens’ concerns, tabled the proposal and sent it back to a committee for review. That tells me that the citizens of West Bend had already paved the way for this decision by electing reasonable people to the School Board. This is a wonderful example of what happens when you elect the right people, stay aware of what’s going on in your community, get others involved and do what you can to make an impact.
I want to commend the community members in West Bend who took the time to get informed, attend this meeting and voice their concerns. You’ve set a great example for all of us.
I trust this story of the multiplied power of one encourages you as much as it has me. It’s exciting to see how the Lord works when we fulfill our Christian obligation to be Salt and Light in our community and exercise our civic duty to get involved in our culture and our government.
Um, yeah. Humbly I confess that I was the "one", kind of, but not really. You see, it took one friend to open my eyes to the casualties that were about to lie ahead. Casualites of a political sort. Dead voices. Futuristic silence. More later... This is enough to chew on.