BOONE COUNTY — Boone County Schools has accepted the recommendation of Superintendent Jeffrey Huffman, which will authorize him to begin negotiations with the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights with the hopes of reaching a resolution agreement in response to a complaint that was filed against the school system.
The school board met via conference call on Feb. 22 and discussed the matter, in relation to the complaint that was filed in September 2020 in open session.
According to Huffman, the outline of the complaint alleges that Boone County Schools has discriminated against female student-athletes at Van Junior-Senior High School and at Scott High School regarding the provided practice, competitive and dressing room facilities.
Huffman expressed that in his communications with attorneys from the civil rights office, a voluntary resolution is desired.
“Essentially, it provides an opportunity for the board to have communications and negotiations with the office of civil rights in order to establish a framework for a resolution,” he said. “Then we would begin developing and working toward putting our plan together as a school system to address the complaint that would be submitted to the office of civil rights for their review and approval, or they will send it back with their recommendations.”
He continued, “This is a 30-day negotiation process.”
Board member Rob Nelson responded to the complaint.
“We had an OCR complaint leveled against us some time back and we settled that and have been working to satisfy that, and there have been several things causing that to be delayed including weather and the (COVID-19) pandemic,” Nelson said. “How is this complaint different than the one we’ve already settled? I find myself wondering when does this end.”
Huffman responded, “This complaint is more explicit, as it also brings in a second school, and this complaint alleges against a wider variety — with one being dressing room facilities — where the original complaint was isolated to one school and more streamlined but not quite as broad.”
The board unanimously approved Huffman’s recommendation.
Nelson added, “As I think about this, there is a difference in how we are approaching these things and it is unfortunate,” he said. “I’m just giving my two cents right here. When Sherman District needed to update facilities, they got it done working with the community, the board and the county and in that instance, it was primarily the local community. When the Scott District needed to update their facilities (including) the locker room and such, they included all of those parties (including) local community, the board, the county and volunteers. And now, here we are at Van and I just don’t understand people’s motivation. It strikes me that we should be able to do business in a less confrontational manner.”
Board President Susan Kimbler said in response, “I get where you’re coming from and it is disheartening to me as a member of the board that people in our communities feel that they can’t come to us and we can’t work together to resolve issues like this. I hope that in the future we can resolve things within our county without going to this level. We are where we are and we have to move forward and try to resolve this.”
Boone County Schools will meet again on March 1. For updates on COVID-19-related school information, visit boonecountyboe.org.