The Menomonie school board could not come to an agreement to approve the SDMA welcoming proclamation — promoted late last year by Menomonie Cares — and decided instead to table the matter on a 7-2 vote.
Board members Penny Burstad, Urs Haltinner, Heather Klanderman, Daniel Paulson, John Sabota, David Styer and board president Jay Fahl approved the motion, while Amy Riddle-Swanson and Jim Swanson were opposed.
In November, the board verbally endorsed the proclamation, which was approved by both the city and the Menomonie Police Department last spring, and was up for official approval by the board during Monday’s meeting.
Disagreement stemmed from wording between two documents that were presented. The original document states that the school district reaffirms the prohibition of discrimination against any student, employee, resident or visitor based on race, age, disability, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion or sexual orientation.
A new document, updated on Jan. 8, extended the legal discrimination to ancestry, color, creed, political affirmation, citizenship, handicap, pregnancy, marital or parental status, physical, mental, emotional or learning disability, gender identity, gender expression, arrest or conviction record, membership in the national guard, state defense force or other reserve component of the military forces of the United States or Wisconsin, use of nonuse of a lawful product off school premises during nonworking hours, membership in employee organizations or any other reason prohibited by state or federal law.
Paulson’s earlier motion to approve the original proclamation was seconded by Swanson, but failed. Other board members, however, either favored the updated version or did not feel comfortable with how either was presented.
Those not happy with either document agreed that the district’s mission statement — along with the student and employee nondiscrimination policies — says everything necessary to provide a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all students, employees and community members.
“I’m not in favor of either of these proclamations as they are,” Styer said. “Our school mission statement, that in a nutshell, says who we are as a district and how we feel. To have to go to this extent just isn’t necessary.”
The district’s mission statement reads: “The School District of the Menomonie Area by embracing the unique needs, using the strengths of our diverse community, is dedicated to preparing all students to become lifelong learners, caring individuals and responsible citizens.”
Burstad was also not in favor of either version. “I had said at the last meeting that I didn’t like the verbiage because it was a lot of talking and a lot of legal,” she said. “We did endorse the proclamation, I don’t know that we necessarily need to vote on it.”
Riddle-Swanson agreed with Styer regarding the mission statement, but had concerns about how the district would be received if they decided to forego approving the proclamation.
“The city has adopted this, the police department has adopted this and I just think if the school district doesn’t do it ... we would be the odd one out,” she said. “With all that goes on in this world today, I don’t think we can not repeat it more than once.”