The Central Bucks School Board majority approved changes to the School Board Director voting regions at its Nov. 15 meeting.
This did not come without pushback. Board member Dr. Mariam Mahmud noted that making the proposed changes would prevent certain precincts from voting in Board Elections for the next six years, due to the timing of elections.
Mahmud proposed tabling the voting region policy and revising it to avoid the potential issue, but the motion to table was denied in a 6 to 3 vote, and the board majority passed the revisions as they were.
In addition, the board majority voted 6 to 3 to employ Lisa Corr as the new district director of Human Resources for a five-year term, starting on Dec. 1. Board member Leigh Vlasblom spoke of Corr with high regard, stating that she’s “excited that [they, the School Board] were able to find the perfect candidate internally.”
Notably, the board did table Policy 321 prior to the meeting. This policy was among many of the recent policies perceived as an attack on the LGBTQ+ community and would have officially banned Pride flags from district classrooms, were it passed in its current state.
Many of the public speakers who showed up at the Nov. 15 board meeting came specifically to discuss Policy 321, including Leo Burchell, the first speaker of the evening. He quickly reminded everyone present that, though the policy is temporarily off the ballot, nothing is stopping it from coming back, especially given the hiring of the law firm of Duane Morris to refute the ACLU’s federal complaint, which outlines a pervasive pattern of anti-LGBTQ+ behavior within the district.
“I am here, again, to urge the school board to listen to the queer and transgender students in your district,” said Burchell. “The students that you are insistent on protecting have their own voices too.”
Duane Morris’ legal team will be led by former U.S. Attorney William McSwain, as well as former federal prosecutor Michael Rinaldi.
McSwain was appointed as U.S. Attorney by former President Donald Trump in 2017, but his reputation as a conservative attorney far precedes his appointment. Arguably, he is most well-known for his work on Cradle of Liberty Council, Boy Scouts of America v. City of Philadelphia, wherein he argued that the Boys Scouts of America should be allowed to ban gay boys from joining.
Notably, McSwain also ran for Pennsylvania governor in 2022 but lost to Doug Mastriano in the Republican Primary.
The motion to hire the firm, and by extension, McSwain, was decided in a 6 to 3 vote, but there was noticeable pushback. Board member Dr. Tabitha Dell’Angelo expressed fears that McSwain’s personal biases and partisan background could get in the way of an objective investigation.
“A move like this looks like we’re less interested in getting it right than being right,” said Dell’Angelo moments before the vote took place. “I actually support the idea of hiring counsel, if we can hire somebody who’s going to be objective ... but I can’t justify spending tax dollars, and maybe a lot of tax dollars, to have somebody just tell us what we want to hear.”
The exact cost of hiring Duane Morris was never explicitly stated during the Nov. 15 board meeting, nor is it outlined within the meeting’s official schedule. It is hard to say at this point exactly how much hiring the law firm is going to cost, much to the concern of board member Karen Smith.
“We are all taxpayers, and as board members we are stewards of taxpayer funds,” Smith said. “It’s our responsibility to proceed in a cautious and judicious manner ... I can’t approve spending what is likely to be tens of thousands of additional taxpayer funds to defend this legal action, which so easily could’ve been avoided.”