Thursday, June 08, 2023

EDITORIAL: School board trio just saved lives

| April 30, 2023 1:00 AM

Randi Bain, Bob Jones and David Quimby, thank you.

As trustees of Lakeland Joint School District, your votes to continue a counseling agreement with Heritage Health very well may save young lives.

The same, sadly, cannot be said of school board Chair Michelle Thompson and Vice Chair Ramona Grissom.

Thompson and Grissom voted three times this month to abandon the agreement. Their thought processes behind the action, murky at best, took on an even more disturbing dimension involving either their integrity or their diligence as district trustees.

In emails to The Press, Thompson and Grissom both said the agreement with Heritage Health was done without school board knowledge or authorization. That was a central point in their votes to no longer allow Heritage mental health professionals to come to Lakeland schools and provide services to 78 students who are unable to travel to Coeur d’Alene.

However, minutes from the July 13, 2022, Lakeland school board meeting clearly show trustees voted unanimously in favor of the agreement with Heritage. That was just nine months ago.

As school board leaders, how could they have so blatantly misrepresented that fact from the recent past? It is perhaps something for voters to remember if Thompson and Grissom decide to seek re-election to the school board this fall.

Meantime, the board majority deserves praise for keeping the health and safety of students their highest priority, and Heritage Health is recognized yet again as one of our community’s most vital assets.

Some hardworking parents simply don’t have the wherewithal to consistently get their children to potentially life-saving services. Recognizing that gap, Heritage has for years been bringing those services to the students, always under the direction of parents and at no cost whatsoever to Lakeland Joint School District.

After voting April 10 to discontinue the agreement with Heritage, Trustee Quimby sought to understand the situation more thoroughly. He talked to counselors, dug deeper into the agreement and was confident that continuing to allow Heritage counselors to come to Lakeland schools not only helps those students, but makes the schools safer.

Heritage has similar agreements in place with all the school districts in its service area; all at no charge to the school districts, and all at the behest of parents, not school staff. The fact that Lakeland would move to sever that lifeline is, hopefully, an outlier that has been exposed and corrected.

Mental health is not a political or cultural issue. For millions of Americans, young and old, it is a medical issue.

Thank goodness for community leaders who see that light and have the courage and compassion to shine it brightly.

Recent Headlines