Public calls for more transparency on EVSC School Board

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — Members of the EVSC School Board are in a dispute tonight with some people in the community saying they’re not doing their jobs like they should. After claims of secret meetings behind closed doors and lack of communication with the public, some people are asking the EVSC School Board to be more transparent.

“When you go to a meeting, they won’t answer any questions,” said Charlie Berger.

After months of asking EVSC School Board Members for more transparency, Charlie Berger says enough is enough, and he’s not the only one asking for a change.

“When the school board responded to discussions about private meetings, they relied on something they got from the state school board not from the public action counselor. So when I got that response, I was really invigorated and astounded that this has gone on for years and nobody’s done anything about it,” said Berger.

EVSC’s Jason Woebkenberg tells me the board follows all statutory laws as they pertain to public meetings and post all corporation business before and after the meetings online.

“The schools have not addressed the transgender student’s issues,” said Wally Paynter.

President of the Tri-State Alliance Wally Paynter says the group has been asking the board to modify some of their policies for almost three years.

“We continue to ask the school board to add gender identity to their nondiscrimination policy. They added sexual orientation, they did not add gender identity. We asked them to use best practices when working with transgender students, they choose not to,” Wally Paynter.

EVSC’s non-discrimination policy, located on the district’s website, states:
It is the policy of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, genetic information, national origin, age, limited English proficiency, or disability in its programs or employment policies as required by the Indiana Civil Rights Law (I.C.22-9-1), Title IV, and Title VII (Civil Rights Act of 1964), the Equal Pay Act of 1973, Title IX (Educational Amendments), the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act and Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act of 1973).

Even after the EVSC lost a lawsuit in the Summer of 2019 after a transgender student sued because he claimed he was not allowed to use the bathroom he identifies with without facing punishment, policies still haven’t changed. Eyewitness News reached out to EVSC’s General Counsel Patrick Shoulders who said no appeal to that lawsuit is currently in the works.

After speaking with Berger and Paynter, Eyewitness News reached out to all seven EVSC School Board Members to try to get some answers from the members directly. Six members didn’t return our calls or emails and one said communication needed to be kept through the board’s president, Karen Ragland. Woebkenberg then reached out to Eyewitness News saying media contacts needed to go through him.

“The way the school board operates, here and in other counties, there’s very little accountability to them,” said Berger.

“We want the school board to do their job,” said Paynter.

All seven board members are elected by the public.

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(This story was originally published on December 3, 2019)

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