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Central Bucks School District Board convenes amid lawsuits, long public comment

Community comes forward to support LGBTQ+ students

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While Central Bucks School District (CBSD) Board reconvened Oct. 12 to pass several budget items and vote on a new board policies towards public comment, two legal cases against the district gained speed.
After raising over $40,000 (and still going) on the site Gofundme.com, 35 parents filed suit against the district on Aug. 27 on behalf of their children with disabilities, claiming that the district is refusing to provide accommodations for those students by willingly undermining the state masking order.
Currently, masking exemptions that the district hands out to students require only a parent’s signature, not a medical one.
The district was said to direct its staff to remind students who are not wearing masks to do so, but not to require an unmasked student to wear a mask, so as to “limit the amount of disruption to their learning environment.”
As shown in the suit, CBSD has received over 1,000 masking exemption requests for students for the school year. In a letter to the parents’ defense team, dated Oct. 13, the district has not officially granted any of those 1,000 or more medical exemptions because none of those who submitted medical exemption forms have agreed to undergo further evaluation under regulatory laws.
Under federal and state law, a student who does not qualify for special education services under educational law, still may qualify for services under Section 504 of the The Rehabilitation Act, which is a civil rights law. According to Pennsylvania Public School Code, “Section 504 and its accompanying regulations protect otherwise qualified handicapped students who have physical, mental or health impairments from discrimination because of those impairments.”
In direct opposition to the August suit, on Sept. 30, district parents Shannon Harris, Jamie Walker, Timothy Tressler and Christopher Doebler filed a civil action lawsuit against the district, saying that mandating their children to be masked in school was against their religious beliefs. Both Walker and Harris have sued the district on this topic before.
The Harris family said in the suit that they identify as Christian and that “it is against God’s will to wear masks ...”
Other parents said in the suit that their children suffered from physical and emotional distress wearing a mask during school.

During the meeting, several community members came forward to voice support for the LGBTQ+ community in the district.
Marlene Pray, who runs the Rainbow Room, said the space was a positive one and has saved many lives, giving kids a place to be themselves and have fun.
“I want to make it crystal clear to any LGBTQ+ student who may be feeling overwhelmed, lost, or in need of guidance – or any parent who recognizes those struggles in their children – that I am here,” Pray said.
Statements were a response to public comments last week that said the Rainbow Room was dangerous and inappropriate for children.
About public comment at board meetings, a revised policy manual draft states that public comment is “not intended to engage the board in dialog or respond to questions.” The newest revision allows only one yield to another participant and limits time to three minutes at the discretion of the providing officer.
During the past several meetings, community members would use yielded time to gain several minutes of public speaking time themselves, occasionally making the three-minute rule moot. Last week, several speakers yielded over 11 minutes to Shannon Harris from Doylestown, to play an audio clip that questioned the uses of vaccines in children.
After the comment ended, the board approved and accepted quotes from several maintenance contracts across the district, from heating and cooling units to a new public safety vehicle. The total amount was around $1.04 million on these improvements. They also approved a motion to appoint Dr. Charles Malone as assistant superintendent for secondary education, to much applause.
The board also approved a contract to hire the Pennsylvania School Boards Association Regulations Service, with one nay from Sharon Collopy, which will provide the board details, procedures, forms, and letters to enhance its policy implementation.
The next board meeting is Oct. 26, in-person and virtual.


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