Despite claims that it values diverse perspectives in working to improve local schools, the Fairbanks School Board’s Diversity Committee doesn’t seem interested in hearing from pro-life stakeholders in the area.
The unelected Diversity Committee members serve as key advisors to the school board by submitting resolutions and recommendations for its approval. During its most recent meeting on Jan. 10, the committee brainstormed a list of community groups it wants to hear from in order to better appreciate the challenges faced in the wider community.
The committee overwhelmingly agreed that it wants to hear from Native Alaskan organizations, as well as LGBTQ groups such as the Fairbanks Queer Youth Council. Not all groups, however, were welcomed at the diversity table. At one point in the meeting, Member Rinam Kowalski objected to the inclusion of FYNDout Free, a prominent pro-life pregnancy center in Fairbanks that provides health education, nutritional support, ultrasounds, parenting classes and material aid for pregnant women in need.
Kowalski, who said she identifies as “queer, 2-spirit, non-binary and indigenous,” said she had a “concern” about the FYNDout clinic being included on the list of potential presenters.
“They do have a history of some misinformation, so I was worried about that,” she told her fellow committee members.
School Board Member Erin Morotti, who was chairing the meeting told Kowalski that the list of possible presenters was “created over time since 2019.”
“And so, we can update it as we go through,” Morotti assured Kowalski. “We do try to keep a very diverse perspective, and if this committee wanted to hear from them, then I as the facilitator of this committee would make that happen, but I hear what you’re saying, and we can update that as we go forward.”
Kowalski didn’t elaborate on why she believed FYNDout disseminates misinformation, and none of her fellow members bothered to question the allegation, but it is a claim many pro-abortion activists levy against pro-life pregnancy centers. In particular, pro-abortionists object to the fact that pro-life centers’ focus on providing counseling and support that encourages women to reject abortion, while empowering them to choose life for their pre-born babies.
Towards the end of the meeting, Member Erin Schupp praised the diversity committee for its work to improve Fairbanks schools.
“The more voices we have – the more perspectives – it feeds our bodies, and it feeds our communities,” she claimed. “There’s pushback in our state in our community in our nation that we shouldn’t have diversity, but I think it is important.”
Ironically, Schupp was among the members who remained silent when Kowalski objected to the pro-life center’s inclusion on the list of possible presenters to the committee.
According to the Diversity Committee’s website, it “provides administration officials with a wide range of perspectives to assist in maintaining an educational environment that embraces and supports equity, equality, inclusivity, and an openness to our diversity. The committee is charged with keeping the administration informed of specific concerns and helping find ways to encourage all students and parents to become involved in educational opportunities and school activities.”
In the coming months, the committee is focused on drafting recommendations to raise awareness about disability issues in schools. Eventually, however, the group aims to push, diversity, equity and inclusion training for staff and students as well as LGBTQ awareness, including policy recommendations for the school board.
— The next Diversity Committee meeting is scheduled for Feb. 7, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Fairbanks School District Administrative Center (520 5th Avenue). The meeting is open to the public and includes time for public testimony. For additional information on upcoming meetings, including how to participate remotely, click here.
— According to the Fairbanks School Board’s website, the Diversity Committee needs additional members. Click here to apply or find out more information.
— Click here to express your thoughts about the Diversity Committee to the school board members.