Prior to the December meeting of the Ludington School board held on December 11th, I had a meeting with a school board member trying to facilitate a solution for a mother who was formally disallowed from coming to school athletic events by a procedure used which allowed a school resource officer to act on behalf of the school.  In my view, the action was against the basic due process rights of the mother, parallelling the illegal process that Ludington city leaders used to block me from entering city hall back in 2011, because my FOIA requests were so threatening.  

Trustee Scott Foster invited me to meet with him about the topic after my comment at the last school board meeting and after I sent him additional information.  Foster was a good point man for the school as he serves as law enforcement for Muskegon County, and could field some of the concerns that I had.  I invited the mother along too after getting permission, and so was able to listen to both sides; Foster had received a lot of supplemental material from the school.  

The mother was encouraged to file an appeal of the action to the school board in the end, and she doesn't appear to have done this as it didn't make it on the agenda.  As neither Foster or her (due to a family medical emergency) showed up at this meeting, we're likely to see it come around at a future meeting again as she is concerned about what happened as much as I am about her rights being diminished and coaches getting a free pass in everything that happened during and after the fact.  

It would have been a good meeting for this as the two official actions to be done by the board was to approve bond expenditures of about $2.5 million and approve or amend NEOLA policies (effectively school bylaws) with a vote (see the agenda packet here).  The meeting had more ceremony than usual, student athletes for fall sports were recognized with plaques for their prowess in their given sports:

This was followed by student Jack Jubar giving an update from the student perspective, primarily about the recent food drive.  Jubar's account, as usual, was refreshingly earnest, telling of the hardships they experienced in getting other students involved but being able to come through in the end with a little extra help.  

This was followed by a report from the middle school principal, Mike Hart, who trumpeted recent school accomplishments of scoring higher on the school and growth index than they have in years and once again getting on the US News & World Report top schools list, landing in the top 7%.  

The students had all cleared out by the time public comment came up, with board president Steve Carlson also being absent, interim chairman Bret Autrey called on me and I talked of the controversy:

XLFD:  "At the last meeting, I introduced to the board an incident wherein a mother of several students in the district was forbidden by a letter of trespass to attend all Ludington athletic events for the rest of the school year.  After further prodding, Trustee Scott Foster offered to meet with me and the aggrieved mother, and the three of us had a productive, if not conclusive, meeting.  Thanks, Scott [I left this off since Scott was absent].

Still, after hearing and reading both sides of the story, the underlying controversy created by this incident remains the same and remains troubling.  Coaches who thought her behavior was disruptive to the pre-practice activities had the power to ask her to leave.  One coach did in a very aggressive way, and the mother left without further incident.  

Now if I came to a meeting and started reading passages from "All Boys Aren't Blue", a novel available to our elementary school students through the Unbound Program, which graphically depicts two young boys having anal sex, the chairman has the power to terminate my statement for being obscene, vulgar, and disruptive and have me removed if he believes my conduct was disorderly.  This is permitted by board policy and the Open Meetings Act.  But nowhere is he given the power to revoke my ability to attend and speak up at board meetings for the rest of the school year.  

This result would indicate that I have less rights than a student accused of doing much more heinous acts than reading aloud from a "children's" book or, for that matter, the act of using colorful language in an effort to get bullying to stop.  For students, the bylaws are clear:  they receive a hearing in front of this body where they can hire counsel and both sides can present facts and witnesses before the board makes a decision on suspension, expulsion, or acquittal.   

Parents have inalienable rights of expression and due process that do not disappear when they are on school grounds.  Your young school resource officer violated this mom's rights by crafting a trespass letter with a one-year punishment after receiving a hearsay report from another mother claiming that the other was vulgar and disruptive at Oriole Field.  He went well beyond his authority in doing so, as did Principal Mike Hart acting on behalf of the district by signing it.  You need to correct it, and you start off by negating the letter of trespass at this meeting, then having your legal counsel figure out how you wish to proceed thereafter." [END comment}

Jason Wolven would follow with a simple suggestion for the board to explain what NEOLA stands for, and surprisingly nobody among the board knew what it was.  It stands for NorthEast Ohio Learning Associates, I looked it up and relayed it to the board after the meeting adjourned.  

And before adjournment, the two actions were quickly discussed and passed without an issue, Jen Rowe was given the Soaring Oriole award for the month, and it was officially board secretary designate Penny Schultz's last meeting, as the board regretfully accepted her retirement.  

One observation I made which I found rather distressing, was that we had a board room full of students and their parents for the award ceremony in a meeting two weeks before Christmas and about a week before the winter break starts.  The two pictures provided show that the board room had no Christmas or other holiday decorations, nor was any other observation or reference to Christmas or any other holiday made, even though everyone would be getting a couple of weeks off.  Unlike last year, I didn't serenade the board with a twisted carol and Christmas cards, this year since I didn't bring any Christmas cheer, neither did anybody else.  How sad.  

As for the trespassed mother, they never considered my suggestion to retract the unlawful process served to her in order to do what's right and within their rules, within their already established NEOLA policies.  When a city council decides that their own charter doesn't apply to them, they must be considered rogue representatives of the people and should resign on principle, if they had any.  When a school board violates their own written policies, they should resign on principal, especially when that principal has overstepped their authority along with the SRO.  How very sad.

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Thanks for the report X. I hope the woman gets due process but the way justice works around Ludington, I don't see that happening. The NEOLA situation is concerning. The fact that the board has them on their agenda and is supposed to be voting on what this organization is involved in with LASD but declares they do not know what NEOLA stands for is a big red flag to me. I went to the LASD web site and could not find any reference to NEOLA but I did find LASD is referenced on NEOLA's web page. Funny!. As a matter of fact NEOLA is involved with 403 Michigan school districts. After reading a portion of their web site it seems to me that this organization could be one of many leftists front groups that was established to undermine our school systems.

There's little doubt that NEOLA generally moves left-of-center, but I cannot say after a little research that they are an influencer or just being influenced by Big Education which is more to the left than NEOLA appears to be.  Trying to get even a moderate consultant in this field would be difficult in today's climate, unless your community has purged the progressive majority from the school board-- LASD certainly hasn't done that,


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