Local boards navigate concerns from parents, organizations

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Fergus Falls School Supt. Jeff Drake says these are challenging times to be in school leadership. That holds true for school administrators and school board members alike.

“While our school district embraces feedback from the community, opinions on any single issue are often strongly held,” Drake said, “and likely cover both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. It can be difficult to build consensus.”

His comments were made following a March 13 school board listening session. A group of parents, following regular school board business, expressed concerns about certain books in school, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and other issues.

Supporters of SEL, in Otter Tail County and elsewhere, say that SEL has a positive impact on student achievements.

“I believe we continue to have the best interests of our students at heart and we let that be our guide,” Drake added.

A minority of parents are raising issues at school board meetings all across the nation. Those who spoke March 13 in Fergus Falls did so during the listening session.

In attendance at the school board meeting were a few people who belong to a group called Moms for Liberty. Nationally, this organization has expressed opposition to certain school library books that address gender and critical race theory.

“While the Fergus Falls school district is not believed to have any copies of the banned books on its shelves, we did receive a recent parent request for an alternate assignment. This was in lieu of a book that received a Newberry award in children’s literature that is used in our middle school curriculum,” Drake said.

In many communities, Fergus Falls and other towns in Otter Tail County included, some people who oppose certain books have not even read the books themselves.

Fergus Falls School Board member Melanie Cole emphasized, “Our teachers do not indoctrinate students in our schools.”