District policies examined

Board defends community group access to schools

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— The Colorado chapters of the Americans Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League are investigating the Steamboat Springs School District's policies and how they're being interpreted.

"It's still a preliminary investigation at this stage," ACLU Intake Director Dipak Patel said. "We can tell within a month whether it's going to be a litigation issue."

A spokeswoman for the ADL confirmed she had initiated contact with Chris Gdowski, the school district's Denver-based attorney. The ADL is attempting to schedule a formal meeting with Gdowski.

At Monday's school board meeting, board member Tom Sharp said he thinks the issue will go to court.

"It is more likely than not that these issues will end up in litigation," Sharp said.

The policies issue first arose in September when some parents of middle school students raised concern over the presence of Euzoa Bible Church youth pastor Chris Teeters in the middle school during the lunch hour. Other community groups also have attended middle school lunch.

The school board has steadfastly supported its policies, and Gdowski has maintained the policies are legal.

However, board President Paul Fisher recently said the policies might not be clear enough. The board plans to review sample policies from school districts around the nation. These sample policies will deal more with who can access schools -- and under what circumstances -- than is addressed by the district's "Distribution/Posting of Material," "Community Use of School Facilities" and "Visitors to the Schools" policies.

The board has defended the presence of community groups in school by citing the Distribution/Posting of Material policy, but critics of the policy say it isn't always applicable because materials are not always distributed or posted by visiting groups.

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