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OPINION | ROBERT STEINBUCH: Be proud, conservative, and transparent

by Robert Steinbuch | December 4, 2022 at 2:21 a.m.


The Conway school board created a kerfuffle recently when it said no to leftist dogma and soundly adopted several conservative common-sense policies. The board's substantive actions are a restoration of reason to an environment of delirium, although the board fumbled in its rollout.

First, the board required transgender students to use the bathroom facilities that align with their sex, even if they gender identify differently. Over half a century ago, we aptly banned race-restricted bathroom facilities. Sex-specific lavatories, however, appropriately remained.

We soundly understood then, and continue to understand now, that there are differences between the sexes, and these differences for students don't disappear based on gender identities.

Privacy concerns call for separation in communal restrooms, showers, locker rooms, and similar environs between the sexes. That doesn't preclude offering alternative options, such as private or transgender- denominated facilities. But the absence of the latter doesn't mandate the elimination of the former.

I sympathize with the challenges that transgender children face. And I've long said that the conservative community, of which I'm a member, should do more to articulate our love for all people, including members of the LGBTQ community, and welcome everyone as fellow children of God.

However, transgender students aren't alone in facing difficulties. Cisgender kids confront a host as well. Forcing the latter to alter drastically their reasonable privacy rights and expectations in public facilities is not an appropriate demand, even though done for the former.

And the Conway school board's courage in clearly articulating this basic point reflects the fact that no longer will conservatives be censored by false claims of bigotry through which the left has so successfully silenced spineless opponents in the past.

Second, the board adopted a policy for overnight school trips, assigning all students shared rooms based on their sex. In addition to the same logic from above applying here, opposite-sex students sleeping together poses a real risk of pregnancy irrespective of gender identity.

Which school official is going to take responsibility for that 16-year-old girl who gets pregnant after being instructed to share a bed in a motel room, out of town from her parents, without adults in the room, during a school trip--all to satisfy the virtue-signaling desires of hemp-wearing, out-of-touch leftist academics?

There's a reason we separate boys and girls in sleeping facilities, and that rather simple biological basis doesn't change because of declared gender identities. I thought leftists claimed to be the party of science. I guess that doesn't include the chapter on procreation.

Third, two books described as LGBTQ were proscribed from the district's libraries. Public-school libraries never have all of the same material as adult libraries. This isn't controversial. But if the library is allowing books on a topic but filtering by viewpoint, that's another story altogether that would require further investigation.

Finally, the board adopted a policy prohibiting the teaching and promotion of critical race theory (CRT) and divisive topics. It's about time!

Schools throughout the country have been attempting to indoctrinate our children in Marxist racialized claptrap known as CRT under the fake claim that the progressive propaganda purveyors are "teaching" something. They are not.

There's a cavernous difference between teaching and brainwashing. For example, colleges teach the history of WWII. Students learn the Nazis falsely claimed that Jews were responsible for German suffering. In contrast, the Nazis brainwashed German children on Aryan superiority. German children were inculcated that Jews are evil.

CRT in K-12 is the latter. It's a value system--a broken one--not a body of knowledge.

Should you have any doubt, just consider a pro-CRT article on the progressive Brookings Institute website that, in seeking to rebut conservative critiques, declares: "Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race ... There are also people who may recognize America's racist past but have bought into the false narrative that the U.S. is now an equitable democracy."

Remarkable how their "explanation" proves the opposite: American institutions are not laced with racism, and this country--the greatest in human history--is a veritable equitable democracy.

Leftists can save their racialized-Trotskyite sermons for their CRT convents. Their church doesn't belong in our schools. The Conway school board is entirely correct in eschewing CRT Shinola.

True to form, the CRT defenders from Brookings and elsewhere proclaim that efforts to ban CRT only serve to "prove" (check your DEI-to-English dictionary) that racism is embedded in the law. Psychology calls that an internally consistent delusion. And it's all part of the diversity, equity, and inclusion indoctrination architecture that I've discussed before: To the left, denying white privilege is the best proof of its ubiquity, as is admitting it! That's an unwinnable fraud designed to support bilking the public.

But all is not ideal in paradise. In response to leftist face-melting at board meetings after the board's bold behavior, the board took a number of anti-transparency steps. Openness isn't a "left or right" issue, it's a "right or wrong" issue. And the board got it wrong; hiding your correct actions isn't a good look. Stop it now. Be proud. Be loud. Be conservative.

• The board adopted an email-retention policy that calls for all emails to be deleted three days after read. That's more like an email "non-retention" policy.

I'm the author of the treatise on the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). My first column here was on the importance of the FOIA and the openness it requires. Public entities should never hide their actions nor seek ways to erase the records thereof. The only reason to destroy records after a mere three days is to avoid transparency. Whichever crackerjack bureaucrat came up with this remarkably foolish idea can be let go.

• The board foreclosed public comment in its November and December meetings. Telling the public they have no voice is never a good look, and for an elected board, it's really bad politics.

• Following up the "no-comment" meetings with a proposal to shorten public-comment time, as the board did, as well as prohibiting speakers from yielding their time to others makes an otherwise plausible proposal look like what it undoubtedly was: an effort to avoid further criticism.

It's time to pull on your big-boy pants, board. Criticism comes with the job.

The Conway school board needs not only to own its solidly conservative actions, but also to get transparency right. So fix this! And do it quickly, or you'll hear me complain further, irrespective of whether you shut down public comments at your meetings.

In the end, the board was right on substance and wrong on process. That's certainly better than the reverse, but it's optimal to be right on both. After all, being right is what we conservatives do.

This is your right to know.

Robert Steinbuch, professor of law at the Bowen Law School, is a Fulbright Scholar and author of the treatise "The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act." His views do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.


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