Education

Cy-Fair ISD Trustees Uphold Widely-Criticized Move To Gut Science Chapters

Attendees opposing the board's decision to remove 13 chapters held signs during the trustees' discussion on Monday night.
Attendees opposing the board's decision to remove 13 chapters held signs during the trustees' discussion on Monday night. Screenshot
On Monday night, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD trustees backed their prior decision to remove over a dozen chapters of five science and health textbooks, declining to reverse course and reinstate these sections.

The chapters will remain in the textbooks but will not be discussed during the courses.

Before the 6-1 vote was taken — with Trustee Julie Hinaman dissenting — Bob Covey, a former CFISD trustee and district grandparent who spoke out against removing these chapters featuring content on cultural diversity, COVID-19, and climate change, erupted out of his seat.

Covey attempted to address board president Scott Henry, shouting his disapproval of the board’s actions to Henry and the trustees who were in lockstep with Dr. Natalie Blasingame, who spearheaded the gutting of these sections.

Henry raised his voice to overpower Covey’s and alerted him that he was out of order. After a brief series of finger-wagging comments, Covey stormed out of the meeting as quickly as he had risen from his chair. His exit was met with a standing ovation from audience members who opposed the chapters’ removal.

Covey’s Irish goodbye was not the only disruption during Monday night’s meeting. District police escorted a man out as strings of disgruntled comments rang out from the crowd during the board's discussion of whether or not the remaining chapters cover each scientific topic required by Texas curriculum standards.

A mixed bag of about 20 parents, students and community members, most of which referenced their scientific backgrounds, flocked to the podium to express their dismay with what many referred to as the infusion of certain trustees’ personal beliefs and agendas into children's education.

“[Trustee Todd] LeCompte spoke about vaccines and autism. I'm a licensed psychologist and peer-reviewed published scientific researcher. LeCompte owns a pest control company. When was the last time you had smallpox?” Tara Cummings, one of the registered speakers, asked. “Never, thanks to a vaccine. LeCompte said that the childhood vaccine schedule includes over 100 vaccines. It's 30. Either he lied or he can't count.”

“Worst of all, LeCompte implied that vaccines cause autism. That myth has been thoroughly debunked for decades. Fear mongering places the public, especially those who are unable to be vaccinated, at great risk,” Cummings said. “You are welcome to be laughably wrong in your personal life. But from the dias in your role as a trustee, you may not be so flagrantly, dangerously wrong. It puts our entire district at risk. Do better.”

LeCompte took issue with vaccine information in biology textbooks, and Blasingame shared her concerns regarding the inclusion of climate-change-related content in several earth systems textbooks during a June 13 workshop meeting.

Before leaving, Covey addressed Blasingame directly, referencing several conversations the two shared years ago.

“You told me at that time you wanted to bring the Bible into this classroom, and that was your ultimate goal. That’s what you wanted to do,” Covey said. “I’m telling you that I do not want the Bible in the classroom because I want that being taught in the home and in the church that my grandkids will go to.”

Covey was not done with his remarks when his minute was up. However, he wrapped up his comments, pointing to the board, saying “Don’t do that.” He added, “Don’t do anything she [Blasingame] said.”

Blasingame initially proposed that the trustees evaluate the possibility of cutting chapters from any of the 25 state-approved textbooks despite state and district staff review committees having reviewed and selected these materials.

Several attendees questioned the source of the chapters’ removal, referencing written correspondence between Blasingame and Monica Dean. Blasingame had asked Dean, LeCompte's political confidant and campaign treasurer, to call her about textbooks.

Dean then sent Blasingame a review of these materials via email a couple of days after Blasingame’s initial request.

During the workshop meeting, the board decided it would reconsider its decision to axe 13 chapters after Alicia Royer, a 30-year instructor and science teacher at Cypress Falls High School, filed a level one grievance with the district.

Royer's grievance, submitted after the board’s 6-1 vote on May 6 to remove the sections, claimed that trustees violated a district policy that states the board should rely on district staff to select and acquire instructional materials.

Royer requested that the trustees return the chapters to the curriculum or bring the instructional materials review committee tasked to select the subjects’ textbooks for the school year together — because instructors were not included in previous conversations — to discuss the matter before officially removing them.

Hinaman, who holds the routine no vote amid the conservative stronghold, proposed the amendment to reinstate and adopt the chapters as they were on the agenda.

On Monday, however, the board decided to stick with its original decision to remove the chapters. 
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.