Board calls meeting after it turns into yelling match

By Scott Swanson
Lebanon Local
The Lebanon School Board’s monthly meeting, scheduled for Thursday evening, Jan. 13, at the Santiam Travel Station, took place as planned.
But it didn’t last long – or, likely, go as planned.
Board members adjourned the meeting after an approximately 10-minute public comment period that devolved into a near-shouting match between audience members and Board Chair Mike Martin.
Martin had attempted to end the scheduled 15 minutes allowed for public comment period after hearing from community member Matt Wyatt, who spoke to the board about the district’s proposal, unveiled at the December board meeting, to locate a school-based health clinic at Lebanon High School.
Wyatt, who introduced himself as “proud to say I grew up in Lebanon as free-range Lebanon kid,” noted that he graduated from veterinary school at Oregon State University and earned a master’s of public health from Johns Hopkins University, serving 23 years in the Air Force as a public health officer.
He told the board he has an “excellent grasp” of medical data and analysis and has worked in “numerous” medical programs, planning, process “and even medical clinics in various theaters around the world.”
He also said he worked last year to vett various candidates for local political offices, during which process, he said, “I came across hundreds of angry and fed-up parents” disturbed by the powers exercised by school districts and boards, “about state officials and teachers unions holding their kids political hostage in the name of science, closing schools and financially damaging them for over a year.”
He said parents are angry about “politically driven agendas forced on their children by progressive educrats using public schools as their ideological platforms. Critical race theory is just one, but there is many more.
“They are angry about comprehensive sex education. In Oregon that starts in kindergarten and children are groomed routinely on sex issues till high school – and this is not your mama’s sex ed.
“The big picture is they feel trapped in a system where they have no control, no say, they can’t get critical information and they are patronized, and no one is listening. Other than that, things are fine.”
Focusing in on the health clinic, Wyatt characterized the program as “a private medical company operating inside a high school, a for-profit medical practice funded by the tax-payers.”
He said planning for the clinic (see story on page 5) was done by a group that met “outside of the public’s view since last April.”
“All participants appear to be medical entities who will make money from the clinic. The most important and critical group missing from these months-long meetings were the parents and the taxpayers.”
Wyatt acknowledged that school-based health clinics have “positive aspects” such as providing sports physicals, wellness checks, and dealing with minor ailments such as “sore throats and sprained ankles.”
But, he added, they also can offer “birth control, hormone therapy, invasive exams and abortion referrals, among other critical issues.”
Martin told Wyatt he was out of time – public comment speakers are typically allowed three minutes.
But another audience member said Wyatt could continue on his time, so Wyatt finished by noting that Oregon laws “have transferred power from the parent to the child, allowing a child of any age – 12, 13, 14, 7, to get birth control or other reproductive procedures without parental consent or notification.
“The school-based health clinic will not provide information to the parent unless the child provides written consent. How’s that for a switch?”
He said the state has passed laws to shield such activities from liability.
“School administrators and school boards will have very limited authority to regulate the activities of the clinic once it is established because the laws are produced by Salem, not the local school board,” Wyatt said.
He suggested the board delay any decision on the clinic for “four to six months, so that the public and the taxpayers and the parents can be informed on both sides of the issue” and give input.
Wyatt suggested that a “school-linked health clinic,” located at a local medical clinic but serving students, would be a better alternative “that could serve not just high school students, but also serve private school students, drop-outs, teen moms and a whole host of others that will not go to the high school to get their care.”
He suggested that alternative would lessen the district’s liability “and give you more control.”
Wyatt finished and Martin asked if anyone else wanted to speak.
That prompted a free-for-all of comments and criticisms from audience members questioning the limits on public discourse during the meeting and about board members’ attention during public testimony.
“You guys could not be more disconnected from this meeting,” one said.
Martin said that the School Board had an agenda it needed to adhere to and that the board meeting was not the place for extensive testimony on the issue which, he said, the board would not be voting on that night.
“Public comment time is for a town hall, not for a board meeting,” he told the crowd.
“I understand that the laws are the laws,” one man said. “You don’t control the law. I understand that – public meeting laws and all that. That also goes for what we’re talking about here with this health clinic and the laws that this state has put in place to take the parents out of our children’s physical and mental health.
“We should have a say in what is going on. So if you want to hold a town hall, please hold a town hall.”
Martin responded, “Well, that’s where this needs to move, to a town hall, but not at this meeting tonight. We have agenda items we need to cover and it’s a board meeting; it’s not a public meeting for comment and debate. And that’s what this is becoming.”
The audience member asked, “Will you hold off the vote until there’s a town hall?”
“There’s no vote tonight,” Martin said.
“That’s not what I’m asking. It’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’” the man said. “Will you hold off the vote until the town hall is held?”
“As a school board member I can’t make that decision,” Martin said.
That prompted a burst of shouted comments from the audience.
“Point of order,” said Board Member Tom Oliver.
At that juncture, Martin announced that he was adjourning the meeting, adding that the board would reconvene at a later date.