The Washington Town Council met on October 16th, 2023, to address an array of matters, with a contentious debate about a resolution on parental rights in schools taking center stage. The meeting also saw discussions on an incident involving the unauthorized use of a resident’s photograph on the township website, and concerns about traffic safety around Washington School.
Councilwoman Stacy Feeney and Council President Desserie Morgan led the discussion on a parental rights resolution, which originated from Councilman Steven Casico. The councilmembers argued that many residents felt that certain topics should be discussed primarily between parents and children at home, instead of in schools.
Councilwoman Feeney emphasized her personal perspective, expressing that while certain issues should be addressed within families, if a student doesn’t feel safe at home, they should be encouraged to speak to school personnel, but parents should be informed about these conversations. “It’s a community effort,” she stated.
Council President Morgan supported Feeney’s views, echoing the sentiment that while the Board of Education isn’t their jurisdiction, they’ve heard from a majority of town residents who believe that parents should be more involved in these conversations. Morgan stated, “the state is not raising our children, we are” and urged for the resolution to be passed.
Another council member provided a different perspective, emphasizing his belief in local control. He expressed frustration with higher levels of government imposing mandates on local communities. He stated, “I don’t want to be told by the state to do something.” He announced his intention to abstain from voting on the resolution due to his position as an educator, as did another council member, Daisy Velez, citing the same reason.
As discussions proceeded, it became clear that some council members wanted more information before casting a vote. In particular, there was mention of Westwood’s resolution on the matter, which some council members were unfamiliar with. Councilwoman Velez specifically voiced her desire for more clarity and to see Westwood’s resolution before deciding.
The decision was made to table the resolution until the November 8th meeting, giving members time to research and deliberate further.
Sharon Mcdna, a senior citizen and a long-term resident, addressed the Board on this topic, suggesting that the sudden emphasis on parental rights seemed politically motivated, especially in an election year. She urged the council to recognize the role of school employees as state-mandated reporters and to be considerate of students who might not have supportive environments at home.
Separately, an incident involving a photograph of a well-known local resident displayed on the township website without authorization led to allegations of copyright infringement. The dispute, which initially saw claims of $30,000, was settled for $15,000, with the Community Health Fund (CHF) agreeing to cover the payment.
Traffic safety concerns around Washington School were also a major discussion point. Residents and members pinpointed traffic volume as the root of the issue, emphasizing the necessity of collaboration with the Board of Education. Ideas ranged from creating safe zones within school properties for student drop-offs and pickups to potentially using unused land for easier drop-off procedures.
Other notable subjects included the delayed audit, the allocation of grant money, and the introduction of a community alert system. The Green Team’s initiative to plant Douglas Firs as a natural sound barrier for noise pollution was also highlighted.