The Buckeye Valley Board of Education held a special meeting Friday to have a first reading of the district’s new anti-discrimination policy.
The first reading of the policy and an executive session were the main items on the agenda, but the majority of the meeting was spent on public participation regarding an author’s visit to one of the district’s elementary schools.
Children’s author Jason Tharp, of Fredericktown, Ohio, spoke at Buckeye Valley West Elementary on Thursday but posted on Facebook after the event that he was not allowed to discuss his book “It’s Okay to be a Unicorn.”
“I wasn’t able to read or talk about my unicorn book, period,” Tharp posted on April 7. “Because of the fear of rainbows. My job isn’t to make books for insecure adults but help kids manage feeling different, understanding their emotions, and the importance of self-kindness.”
Buckeye Valley Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Froehlich said Tharp was invited for “his positive message to children and to highlight local talent” but said that on Wednesday the district was “made aware that some community members and two Board of Education members had concerns” regarding the visit.
“Specifically mentioned as a concern was the book ‘It’s Okay to be a Unicorn,’” Frohlich said. “Parents were sharing concerns via email, school visits, and social media platforms. The event was unexpectedly becoming a controversial issue in regards to selecting educational material and content.”
Froehlich said board Vice President Donald Dicke did email him and recommended the event be cancelled.
Froehlich added there was an “internal miscommunication and misunderstanding” regarding student artwork created for the visit.
“Once this was realized, it was quickly clarified that there was no reason not to display precreated student artwork hung to celebrate the day,” Froehlich said Monday. “We will work as a team to communicate more clearly in the future by using clarifying questions and statements to recap conversations.”
Parents discussed the visit and the apparent ban on the discussion of Tharp’s book during the public participation section of Friday’s meeting, and board President Amy Dutt shared her thoughts on Tharp’s visit and the book’s message.
“I’m forever grateful for the author coming in in the midst of all this,” Dutt said. “His book is wonderful. He had a great message: It’s okay to be weird. It’s okay to be ourselves.”
Board member Tom Ailabouni left the meeting during public participation.
After the author’s visit, a local mother, Liz Green, organized a GoFundMe to host another visit from Tharp for the local community and reached her $3,000 goal over the weekend. The event will reportedly be free and is still being planned.
The board on Friday did hold the first reading of the new anti-discrimination policy, and it was noted the policy will be discussed again on April 20.
The new policy reads: “The Board is committed to an environment in which all individuals, including students, staff, job applicants, the general public and individuals with whom it does business, are treated with dignity and respect. The Board prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, religion, sex, economic status, age, disability, military status or legally acquired genetic information.”
The policy was adopted in 2008 and was last revised in 2011.
Froehlich said the changes made to the policy were recommended policy updates from the Ohio School Board Association.
The policy can be found on the district’s website at buckeyevalley.k12.oh.us.
Additionally, according to the board’s agenda, the board will hold a special meeting today at 6:30 p.m. to convene into executive session. There are no other items on the agenda.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.