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Helena school trustees to discuss settling lawsuit over health curriculum meetings

2012-02-14T00:00:00Z Helena school trustees to discuss settling lawsuit over health curriculum meetingsBy ALANA LISTOE Independent Record Helena Independent Record
February 14, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Helena school trustees will meet a little earlier than usual tonight to hold a closed, executive session to talk about an open-meetings lawsuit filed by opponents of a controversial health curriculum approved in 2010.

Afterward, trustees are expected to approve a settlement agreement during an open portion of the meeting.

A group of people including Bruce Norum, Jon Rush, Barb Hamlin, Theresa Frei, Mikal Wilkerson, Sharon Nason, Lori Page and Jeanne Sticht filed a lawsuit last year alleging various open-meeting violations and violations of the requirements to provide public records in connection with the passage of the health enhancement curriculum in 2010.

The recommendation from Jeff Hindoien, the district’s legal counsel, is to approve the settlement in order to secure the dismissal of the lawsuit and avoid any further legal expenses.

“A case like this, regardless of its merits, can cost a lot of money just to deal with it,” School Board Chairman Michael O’Neil said. “We haven’t done anything wrong.”

O’Neil said if the board approves the attorney’s recommendations, it will put an end to the case and limit expenses to taxpayers.

If approved, the school district agrees to pay $3,500 to the plaintiff’s counsel for fees and costs incurred during the case and to conduct an extensive electronic search for public records relating to the Health Enhancement Curriculum at the district’s expense and provide those records to the plaintiffs. If approved, the plaintiffs agree to dismiss the pending lawsuit.

Language in the proposed agreement says settlement of the lawsuit does not constitute any admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of the district.

The executive session begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Front Street Learning Center. The regular meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. Trustees are also planning to discuss the search for a new superintendent.


Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081, alana.listoe@helenair.com or Twitter.com/IR_AlanaListoe

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(27) Comments

  1. Goldstein84
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    Goldstein84 - February 20, 2012 6:40 am
    steeline said: "Goldstein84 Wall da way I figger it. Wees humuns hav surfived on erth a lon time and hav figgerd out secks an how it wrks jes fine. I tink some keds jus don't fele good bout takin bout what day do in da bak seet of da volkwgn. anywy evin if yo tell da kids bout secks da are goin to do what da want anywa. So waht is da use."

    This cuts right to the heart of the issue... the sex-ed curriculum isn't trying to stop humanity from having sex; and you're right, kids will figure it out with or without an adult. Their understanding of sex is vital to their future. Without some education (which many are not getting at home) they could live out the rest of their lives with an unwanted child, an unwanted spouse, or an STD. It's easier to have conversations than have unwanted children!
  2. steeline
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    steeline - February 19, 2012 9:04 pm
    Goldstein84 Wall da way I figger it. Wees humuns hav surfived on erth a lon time and hav figgerd out secks an how it wrks jes fine. I tink some keds jus don't fele good bout takin bout what day do in da bak seet of da volkwgn. anywy evin if yo tell da kids bout secks da are goin to do what da want anywa. So waht is da use.
  3. Goldstein84
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    Goldstein84 - February 18, 2012 7:31 am
    Steeline--Wut bout the kidz hooz parents don tak to them bout nothin? Speshally not secks...
  4. steeline
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    steeline - February 17, 2012 9:40 am
    Curm, I didn't have seckx education in school and I did just fine except for my spellin. If the teechers would have spened more time teaching me hou to spel I would hav been able to artcilate myself gooder. I dont thenk there is enuf time in a school day for a teacher to spend teaching all the miricle and joys of secks, caus I don't think there are any teechers that no that much bout secks. So I think it moms and dads shud teach ther own kids bout secks. Think RIGHT.
  5. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - February 15, 2012 4:11 pm
    abodox, we agree to disagree. Just because someone either doesn't have a voice or choses not to have one through voting does not automatically equate to what they think or don't think on an issue.

    Holmes said "We know that the opponents of the health care curriculum are a minority". I fail to how anyone can make that statement based on who voted for who in the last election.
  6. Goldstein84
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    Goldstein84 - February 15, 2012 1:57 pm
    steeline said: "This is a lot of BS about something that shouldn't even be on the table as an issue. There is no way the Helena School District can assure the people that their childeren will not be groomed by a sexual preditor in our school system. It is happening all over the country, in schools, colleges, hosptitals,rest homes. Our teachers are not "sexoligists" and should stay focused on teaching reading, writing and arithmatics. We do not pay taxes for social engineering either. Try to push sex into the schools and there will be push back for ever. The people are getting fed up with the "down your throat" attitude and agenda of some of the extreme School Board mambers. Don't think for a second that there will not be a sexual deviant teacher that will cost the school system millions for messing with a kid. We have to restore the American Constitution."

    You're absolutely right--they should spend more time teaching reading and writing. The words that you were looking for are actually spelled: children, predator, hospitals, sexologists, arithmetic, and members.

    The same goes for pretty much everyone that has, herein, dismissed the school system: billhaslip, dolphind3, justme. Hilarious!
  7. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - February 15, 2012 12:19 pm
    Curmudgeon, we definately can't abolish schools, who would raise the kids? LMAO. Actually thats not a laugh, seems thats what the public wants and expects these days.

    This is moot anyway, I'm fairly sure the cirriculum is here to stay. Who's to say if teaching sex ed at an early age is going to change anything. Could very well cause kids to experiment earlier as well.
  8. abodox33
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    abodox33 - February 15, 2012 11:58 am
    dietz said: "abodox33, please break down exactly where my logic is unsound. Unless 100% of anything is counted (or heard), how can we make an assumpion about a majority of anything?"

    Do you really need me to break this down? I think you know exactly what I am saying... I guess you just need to understand what majority means in a voting situation. The "majority" constitutes the "majority" of voters on any issue. The majority does not consist of those who fail to vote in any situation. Those who don't vote, choose to have their opinion not matter. Those who do not have the legal right to vote will never be represented in a majority either.

    Do I need to break it down further?
  9. Curmudgeon
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    Curmudgeon - February 15, 2012 11:29 am
    steeline said: "There is no way the Helena School District can assure the people that their childeren will not be groomed by a sexual preditor (SIC) in our school system."

    There is no way the Helena School District can assure the people that their children will not be groomed by a sexual predator teaching READING, WRITING and ARITHMETIC in our school system, either.

    STEELINE said: "Don't think for a second that there will not be a sexual deviant teacher that will cost the school system millions for messing with a kid."

    If that is really a major concern, why not abolish the schools altogether? Whatcha think, STEELINE, mightn't that eliminate the possibility of such dangers?
  10. dolphind3
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    dolphind3 - February 15, 2012 9:37 am
    Anti; No no no, It is no their job to raise my kids. Educate yes but not dictate morals or values. No religeon either. Leave sex to the parents. I also agree they are starting to young.
    Oh dietz it right about the whole majority thing. I also agree with Pichia that this lawsuit was needed to force the school board to tow the line.

    Oh and limber, the turn out was not VERY HIGH. It was better than normal.
  11. Limber
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    Limber - February 14, 2012 6:53 pm
    Justme: the last school board election had a very high turn out, and just about everyone who held a strong opinion voted. It was already obvious to some of us at the public hearings that a very vocal minority was trying to pull a power play. Reasonable compromises like "opt out" alternatives were rejected in a militant, reactionary way. Publicity and media reporting was constant and intense. Public interest in education issues was as high as most of us can remember in Helena in several decades. You dismiss it as the assertion of 5 or 6 liberals. Do you really expect anyone to take you seriously?
  12. iamfedup
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    iamfedup - February 14, 2012 6:07 pm
    THANK YOU Pichia, for getting this topic back on track. This whole mess could have been alleviated had the school board been up front with the meetings and handed over requested documents early on in the community discussions. This social engineering will continue to steam roll over all of us unless people like the Helena Youth Advocates stand against such things as an age inappropriate sex ed curriculum. And my question is....did Messinger revise this curriculum so it meets some of the talking points the Helena Youth Advocates fought so hard for? Or, was this totally forgotten about as he left town and left us with quite a stinking legacy....
  13. pichia
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    pichia - February 14, 2012 4:36 pm
    If we put aside the disagreements over the sex-ed curriculum itself and look at what the lawsuit says "various open-meeting violations and violations of the requirements to provide public records in connection with the passage of the health enhancement curriculum," perhaps we might agree that the school board hasn't been, for some time, following proper procedure. With a hot topic such as this, they should've been above board at all times, which we all know they were not.

    A lot of the issues, headaches and community division may have been alleviated if the school board would properly inform the public and hold themselves to a higher standard. For some time now, those on the board have been on a bit of a 'power high.'

    In any case, I'm not a huge fan of lawsuits, but maybe this one might just ground the board so they don't make avoidable mistakes in the future with respect to public records and public meetings.
  14. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - February 14, 2012 3:10 pm
    abodox33, please break down exactly where my logic is unsound. Unless 100% of anything is counted (or heard), how can we make an assumpion about a majority of anything?

    I agree folks shouldn't be forced to be heard or even vote. But just because many chose not to have a voice or vote doesn't mean its an indication of how the majority "thinks" for or against an issue. Based on the data in this case I would have to say 75% doesn't care who gets elected to the school board. And this could be that perhaps this 75% either don't have school age kids any longer so it probably doesn't matter to this segment of the population who's elected to the school board.
  15. abodox33
    Report Abuse
    abodox33 - February 14, 2012 1:10 pm
    dietz said: "No holmes, we don't know opponents of the health care curriculum are a minority. What we do know is a whooping majority of folks don't care enough to vote. Unless all registered voters vote its not fair to say what the majority wanted or didn't want or even who is in the majority or minority on an issue unless all are counted."

    Those who don't vote choose not to have a voice. It would be unfair to force those that don't care to vote. Your logic here is unsound.

  16. AntiXenophobia
    Report Abuse
    AntiXenophobia - February 14, 2012 1:07 pm
    @dolphind3 - When you send your kids to school for over 30 hours a week, then you are in fact letting the schools raise your kids. Parents are also involved, but to claim that it isn't the schools job to raise your kids seems off target. I have a baby, and I hire a woman to help care for her. She is helping to raise my son the same way that the schools help to raise kids. Unless you think that an education is not part of raising kids.

    And steeline want to criticize the school board policy because steeline thinks that a teacher will use the sex ed curriculum to sexually abuse kids? If a teacher is a sexual predator, that is the problem, not the sex ed curriculum. If a teacher wants to molest a kid, they will work towards that with or without a sex ed class.
  17. justme59601
    Report Abuse
    justme59601 - February 14, 2012 12:49 pm
    Limber said: "Yes. In fact, there was an actual vote. The school board election was pretty much a referendum on this issue. A substantial majority of voters endorsed all 3 board members which were targeted by this group. The voters soundly rejected all of the candidates who ran on the promise to repeal the approval of the curriculum. "

    point well taken although here's the problem. what percentage of voters normally vote in the school board elections? 50%? 60%? no actually it's about 10% so my first question still remains unanswered....how do we know it was a minority? just because 5 or 6 liberals say it doesn't mean it's a majority.

  18. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - February 14, 2012 12:21 pm
    No holmes, we don't know opponents of the health care curriculum are a minority. What we do know is a whooping majority of folks don't care enough to vote.

    Unless all registered voters vote its not fair to say what the majority wanted or didn't want or even who is in the majority or minority on an issue unless all are counted. If anything else one could say the majority of people don't seem to care (based on votes). Only if 100% of registered voters vote would be a clear indication of what a majority wants or doesn’t want. Consider, there are 42,000 registered voters in Lewis and Clark County. Yet only 25% (11,000) actually voted for during the last school board elections. This according to an article in the IR on 4 May. So in essence, only 25% of us that voted wanted to see a change in the school board and the other 75% didn’t care. Ya gotta get out and vote otherwise don’t balk.
  19. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - February 14, 2012 11:28 am
    This is a lot of BS about something that shouldn't even be on the table as an issue. There is no way the Helena School District can assure the people that their childeren will not be groomed by a sexual preditor in our school system. It is happening all over the country, in schools, colleges, hosptitals,rest homes. Our teachers are not "sexoligists" and should stay focused on teaching reading, writing and arithmatics. We do not pay taxes for social engineering either. Try to push sex into the schools and there will be push back for ever. The people are getting fed up with the "down your throat" attitude and agenda of some of the extreme School Board mambers. Don't think for a second that there will not be a sexual deviant teacher that will cost the school system millions for messing with a kid. We have to restore the American Constitution.
  20. holmes
    Report Abuse
    holmes - February 14, 2012 11:16 am
    We know that the opponents of the health care curriculum are a minority. In spring 2011, Barb Rush and Brittany Renshaw ran against the the incumbents. They had the support of the anti-health curriculum folks, who no doubt got most of their people out to vote. Rush and Renshaw were beaten soundly. Opponents of the curriculum know that they don't have the votes, that's why they are harassing the district with this lawsuit instead.
  21. Limber
    Report Abuse
    Limber - February 14, 2012 11:15 am
    justme59601 said: "how do you know it was a minority? was there an actual vote? "

    Yes. In fact, there was an actual vote. The school board election was pretty much a referendum on this issue. A substantial majority of voters endorsed all 3 board members which were targeted by this group. The voters soundly rejected all of the candidates who ran on the promise to repeal the approval of the curriculum.

  22. dolphind3
    Report Abuse
    dolphind3 - February 14, 2012 10:55 am
    Its not the sex curmudg, it is who is teahing it and what they are teachimg. It is not the school job to raise our kids.
  23. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - February 14, 2012 10:41 am
    I don't agree with the health cirriculum more so due to what I felt is age appropriate in teaching about sex(age 5 seems a little early) but I also don't see a sense in this lawsuit either. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the school board voted and passed this right? Board officials are elected, correct? Seems to me we shouldn't be voting for certain board officials verses yet another lawsuit which sounds to me it'll go to settlement verses changing anything.
  24. justme59601
    Report Abuse
    justme59601 - February 14, 2012 10:30 am
    hiddenmuggle said: "They haven't done anything wrong. A few vocal minorities simply want to continue causing grief in the school system."

    how do you know it was a minority? was there an actual vote?
  25. Curmudgeon
    Report Abuse
    Curmudgeon - February 14, 2012 9:23 am
    A few of the town's Nervous Nellies have their Depends all in a twist, because with the Health Curriculum, Helena kids will find out there's something in the world called (you should pardon the expression) s-e-x.

    The Nervous Nellies insist on taking their revenge on the school board. That's what their lawsuit is all about.
  26. hiddenmuggle
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    hiddenmuggle - February 14, 2012 7:35 am
    They haven't done anything wrong. A few vocal minorities simply want to continue causing grief in the school system.
  27. billhaslip
    Report Abuse
    billhaslip - February 14, 2012 5:02 am
    The statment, "We haven't don anything wrong" ,Is so far from the truth!

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