Almost a month after a controversial speaker spoke at assemblies held at Camdenton High School and Middle School, patrons spoke out in concern during a special meeting of the district's board of education.
Almost a month after a controversial speaker spoke at assemblies held at Camdenton High School and Middle School, patrons spoke out in concern during a special meeting of the district’s board of education.
A handful of residents were on hand to voice their concerns regarding assemblies featuring Tina Marie Griffin Tuesday morning.
Griffin spoke to high school and middle school students in what administrators thought was supposed to be a motivational and encouraging assembly on Jan. 31. But some have taken umbridge to unexpected religious references, questioning if a school is the appropriate forum for controversial subject matter.
According to Griffin's website her programs, known as "Tina Marie Live," have a mission "to reveal the deadly consequences of the glamorization of premarital sex, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, cutting and other self-destructive behaviors portrayed in all entertainment mediums. Tina Marie Live will educate and encourage people to live to their fullest potential by making positive media choices, thereby building higher self esteem and moral character."
Mac McNally asked to be placed on the board's agenda and spoke specifically about the district's policy regarding teaching about controversial issues.
During the public comment portion, before McNally's agenda item was addressed, a few residents spoke out.
Corie McKibben voiced her concern about the "lack of insight" she felt the school had when inviting Griffin to speak.
"I'm sure their intentions were honorable but a simple Google search would have show that she has a history of going off script," McKibben said.
She went on to say, "Telling the students if they wear a purity ring, they will be a virgin again is endangering the health and safety of the students. Tina Marie would be more suited for a like-minded Christian Church and not a public school."
Jeri Landon told the board she was raising her grandson, who attended one of the assemblies. She expressed concern that parents and guardians weren’t notified about the potentially touchy subjects in Griffin’s speech, including suicide prevention.
"I should have been notified if this was going to be brought up," Landon said to the board members. "Parents should have had the option to be there."
Since McNally — a parent of two elementary students in the district — requested to be placed on the meeting's agenda, he had an allotted time to speak. He chose to not discuss the content of the assembly since there is no documentation of the event. With research on Griffin, he addressed two issues. McNally spoke to the board about a 'lack of due diligence on the part of Camdenton staff or administration regarding the speaker and failure to document or record said presentation.'
McNally said, "In 1994, the school board approved a controversial speaker policy. That policy includes the following statement: 'The teacher/sponsor and school building administrator are expected to exercise judgment and to investigate fully those proposed resource persons about whom questions may arise, and all guest speakers are to be approved through the principal's offices prior to contacting the speaker.'"
More research that McNally did into Griffin unveiled an article written in a paper from Bozeman, Mont. after Griffin spoke to a high school there.
"In 2005, Tina Marie spoke to a high school in Bozeman, Montana. The local paper reported that Tom Wells, attorney and father of students in attendance stated that the speaker said, 'that condoms lead to cancer, that birth control pills are only 20 percent effective, that sexually transmitted diseases are spread by skin contact alone, that third-trimester fetuses can be aborted, that video games lead to homicide, that human papilloma virus can be transferred through condoms and that teens can achieve "second virginity" through abstinence.'"
McNally was aiming to show that the policy may not have been followed and that a search on the web may have given administrators red flags about Griffin before she came to speak.
Another part of the district policy in question states, "An appropriate record shall be made of each resource person utilized and of his or her presentation."
A recording of any of the three assemblies were not available.
McNally ended by saying, "Based on the speaking presentation that took place on Jan. 31, 2014, I am requesting that the board take action to enforce the policies that they enacted in 1994. I am also asking that the administration acknowledge that this speaker was controversial, and that future speakers will be fully vetted. As a taxpayer and Camden County resident, I have elected you as a representative for this publicly funded school. I ask that you act as a steward of the people, and take action so that this does not happen again."
Superintendent Tim Hadfield updated the board by telling them that he had written up a procedure draft dealing with assembly speakers and emailed it to all building principals. He is currently waiting for the principals to get back to him so that he can create the final draft.
After listening to the public's concern, the board discussed the topic. Some asked what to do if the speaker gets off topic and if someone would cut them off. Others asked about putting the event on the school calendar so that the public knew it was happening. The idea of making a school reach call prior to the meeting in order to notify parents of the event was also brought up. All of those aspects to this situation will be taken into consideration as a new procedure and possible policy is drawn up.
Various school officials and building administrators were present at the Feb. 25 meeting but Tina Marie Griffin was not.