State Supreme Court to hear school board case in March


December 29, 2022

The date has been set. The Washington Supreme Court will hear Wahkiakum School District’s case against the State of Washington on March 14, 2023.

The lawsuit, initially filed by the district a year ago in Wahkiakum Superior Court, argues that the state should be responsible for funding equitable and safe facilities for schools according to the state’s own constitution.

The court date is good news for the district, though Superintendent Brent Freeman admits there will likely be lost sleep between now and then.

Leadership from other schools around the state are starting to recognize what the district is doing during a time when rural schools are also beginning to understand the value of banding together to be heard.

Freeman shared a few of the results of a small school survey with the WSD Board of Directors at their December meeting last Tuesday, and read some comments from some of the participants on the subject of the lawsuit.

Here are two of them:

"Wahkiakum School Board leadership is what we should all model on,” one person wrote. “Can we have the opportunity to meet them and hear how they put a lawsuit together?”

“Washington state is failing in it’s duties to provide facilities capable of educating students,” another person said. “Pray for Wahkiakum’s lawsuit and bless them for taking this burden on for the benefit of us and all the kids in the state.”

“We’re the mouse that roared right now,” Freeman said to the board. “There are a lot of people that appreciate what you’ve done.”

According to the survey, of the 123 that answered a question about longevity, 92 said they had served on their school board less than a year. Only 18 had served more than 12 years.

Boards over the last couple years have become new, Freeman said, and while there were a tremendous number of small rural schools in the state, they did not make up a lot of the population.

Several themes kept popping up in the results. We have to engage our legislators, some said. Small schools need a bigger voice.

In other news, the security upgrade is going well at the school district, if a little behind schedule, according to Freeman, and training on its use is beginning for administration and staff.

The board discussed policies 3424 and 3424P regarding the use of an opioid overdose reversal medication. Policy 3424 says that the district has the authority to “obtain and maintain opioid overdose reversal medication” for the high school, and that a school nurse or school personnel who elect to become designated trained responders can administer the medication if they suspect an overdose of an opioid.

There was a question about whether the policy should be limited to the high school, or cover all the district schools.

“The fact that the state makes it only high school, they are not living in reality,” Director Paula Culbertson said.

The entire staff, K-12, has already been trained in the use of the medication, Freeman said. Not all are obligated to implement their training, but the school nurse is collecting signatures from those are willing to do so.

The public can see the policy, which is in review, and comment on the school website.

Culbertson spoke about her experience as a judge at a regional robotics event over the weekend. She said the Wahkiakum team was headed to state in January, and talked about the disparity in representation at the event she attended. Some teams received financial and community support, while others had to make their own way.

“It’s not fair but that’s the way it is,” Culbertson said. “We did very very well. We want to take our kids to SeaPerch again, and three of our students are going to another event, and there is state.”

SeaPerch is an annual international underwater robotics event in Maryland. Wahkiakum High School and 4-H Mecha Mules placed second overall in the open class in their first attendance at the event last year.

“The robotics is just such a great story for us,” Freeman said. “It is one of the most dynamic, moving events that you can go to. It’s so different than what I expected, it’s all the skills we talk about in professional career development, It’s cooperation, it’s team building, its dynamic thinking, it’s problem solving on the fly. Our kids do wonderful.”

Ron Wright is a master,” Freeman said of the team’s coach and advisor.


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