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Editorial: Cuba board’s reaction is too heavy-handed

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Even if it might have made the right decision on a controversial question, the Cuba School Board could use a lesson in respect for its constituents.

In the continuing saga of Cuba High School senior Liberty Thompson’s efforts to graduate with her class – commencements are scheduled on a Saturday, her family’s day of religious observance – the school board has been unresponsive and now heavy-handed.

It is expected that Liberty will earn the honor of being class valedictorian, but the board has indicated it’s not likely to change graduation day to the preceding Friday to accommodate her request.

That isn’t necessarily an unreasonable decision when taking various factors and wishes of other families and educators into consideration. But the district’s treatment of the Thompson family is unacceptable. The board’s attorney, Tony Ortiz, recently sent a letter to Liberty’s father, Dwight Thompson, telling him to “cease and desist” attempting to contact board members or district administrators about the issue.

Ortiz’s letter told Thompson, who has filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Justice Department alleging religious discrimination, that if he didn’t comply, “…I will consider seeking an injunction barring you from all school property and activities for the remainder of the year, which may include any activities involving your child.” Ortiz also threatened to call law enforcement.

But absent allegations Thompson has been threatening, profane or obstructionist, not just persistent or irritating to the powers that be, the threats seem over the top.

Twice the board – at its September and October meetings – has refused to let Liberty speak during its public comment period. However, the board did change its policy from only allowing comments on agenda items to allowing them on “any school related topic.” That could give Liberty an opportunity to address it tonight.

This school board, while within its rights to stick with its calendar decisions, is overreacting.

Board members should step back and put themselves in the place of a teenager who has worked hard to represent well her high school. At the very least, they should let her plead her case at tonight’s meeting. And give her “helicopter” dad a break.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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