School bus

A First Student school bus travels along Geist Road Tuesday afternoon, August 22, 2017. 

An email-writing effort to convince education leaders to unmask school children is underway along with a counter effort to maintain mask wearing.

The Board of Education also has heard from people calling for mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion training at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District after a Lathrop High School teacher made comments about race and police brutality that spurred complaints.

The board, at its regular meeting Tuesday, additionally saw a couple of parents call out the Waldorf-inspired Boreal Sun Charter School for racist comments made about 100 years ago by the European founder of the Waldorf education method. Public education leaders renewed a contract with the charter school, and asked for a diversity report later this year.

A districtwide diversity, equity and inclusion report is planned for the school board’s June 1 meeting.

No action was taken on masks, which was a popular theme in written communication to the school board. The issue is also expected to come before education leaders on June 1.

Some parents think masks are harmful to children. Others wrote that masks are necessary to reduce Covid-19 transmission and make public education successful during the pandemic.

“Please take the masks off our children,” wrote Tiffany D’amato Supplee. “This has gone on way too long. We don’t know the long-term effects.”

She expects to have five children attend public school next year, but not if face masks are required.

Andi Rice wrote that the private school where she teaches does not require masks.

“No mask for any of us, and no Covid outbreak in our school,” she said. Masks impede children’s speech and language development, she said. “What you are doing to our students is a travesty,” Rice wrote.

Nicole Stellon O’Donnell, a mother of two high school students, said Covid-19 transmission rates are too high right now to drop masks at school.

“Let us support the medical profession in our community,” she wrote, “and honor their requests to maintain precautions at this time.”

Mackenzie Duvlea Staiger said she was disappointed to hear that education leaders would even consider making face masks optional.

“The numbers in our town are rising. The vaccination rates are the second lowest in the state,” she wrote. “The health care workers are overworked and exhausted.”

Another issue raised by people contacting the Board of Education was systemic racism.

Bennett Wong challenged the school district to do more. “When will the school district authentically acknowledge and stand up against systemic inequities?,” he said in spoken comments.

Kyle Dilliplaine testified via Zoom. “I think it is important that you know that I am a white male,” he said. He told education leaders that white people expect them to address white supremacy.

“Most of us are complicit in white supremacy culture,” Dilliplaine said. “It is only with this acknowledgement that the work to address the inequities in our education system can begin.”

The teacher at Lathrop who is under investigation for making comments on race and police brutality exemplifies the need for more diversity training at public schools, according to people who testified to the school board.

DEI work is underway for schools that request it, but it’s unclear if it will be made mandatory, which was recommended in a DEI audit last year. School Board President Tim Doran said in a text message Wednesday that diversity training is constructive, but he didn’t comment on whether it should be required.

“... (It) works towards ensuring that no individual or group is marginalized,” said Doran, a retired elementary school principal. “They have helped me get a better insight, perhaps understanding, of other perspectives different than mine. As a result, I hope I helped establish climates in which all people felt welcome.”

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.