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The Salida School Board was set last week to approve a resolution on Civility and Citizenship. Superintendent David Blackburn said the resolution was removed from the agenda after he went to write it and found that there wasn’t time and capacity to give it the proper care it needed, due to the issues the school is dealing with from COVID-19. He said he also found that it wasn’t the right form.

Originally the board wanted to pass a resolution stating the purpose of public education. It framed this in regard to the responsibility to teach students about civic responsibility and citizenship, and how to express opinions in a democracy.

Blackburn told Ark Valley Voice that what he said during the meeting was in regard to the adults in America “So I’ll put myself in the mix. We are not demonstrating what civility and what citizenship looks like or could best look like.”

Salida School District Building. Photo by Brooke Gilmore.

During the School Board meeting, Blackburn said “it became clear what we had set up wasn’t the right way to do that. I really just want to be sure we take some time as a board and at least said out loud that public education is absolutely essential for our society to function.”

Blackburn explained “People have to be able to have their own opinions and be taught from childhood how to civilly engage in conversations [on topics] that people might have different opinions on. That’s part of what being a citizen is. That’s part of why we exist. That’s our mission; to prepare children to become adults that can think for themselves — which is the power of a democracy.”

Blackburn went on to say “That is the power of America. We do have an election coming up. We have a lot of teachers caught in a lot of conversations and it’s important to know that that is where we’re standing and how we’re trying to move forward.”

In relation to the resolution, Blackburn explained “It’s a part of something I have been doing for the last two years. I believe firmly in education and that a representative democracy is at risk when public education isn’t successful. It matters.”

Blackburn explained to Ark Valley Voice,  “We’ve had people from both the left and the right reach out to us in the schools with various frustrations because they felt like their viewpoints weren’t being sufficiently honored. In both cases, we’ve investigated and if we needed to, we tried to help teachers make sure that they’re giving a balanced viewpoint.”

Blackburn explained “We have had some instances where students have participated on either side — and both sides try to figure out how to become activists for their point of view. I’d say both of them did it like kids would do it. They may not have done it perfectly. The schools have not pushed that or facilitated that on either side of the fence.”

Over the course of the past months, kids and adults in Chaffee County have found and used their voices in various ways. Sometimes their chosen methods have been successful and other times, less so. In relation to these instances, Blackburn reminds the public that he and the school district are not speaking to or supporting any one specific person or group of people.  “The kids look at the adults and say ‘that’s how to do it’; it’s not like we’re modeling [what we believe are] the right behaviors,” said Blackburn.