EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Davis School District defends not sending 6th grade robotics team to World Championships

Apr 25, 2022, 6:38 PM | Updated: Apr 26, 2022, 12:40 pm

Voters in Davis School District will decide in the upcoming election on a $475 million bond that th...

Voters in Davis School District will decide in the upcoming election on a $475 million bond that the district says will not raise taxes. (Photo credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.)

(Photo credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.)

FARMINGTON, Utah — The Davis School District is defending its decision not to allow a sixth-grade robotics team to travel to the world championship competition scheduled for the middle of May.

According to a parent of a member of the sixth-grade team, the Valley View Elementary robotics team is one of several teams in the district that have qualified for the Vex World Championship in Dallas.

Sixth-grade robotics team

The elementary-age team qualified back in March by taking second place at the state championship competition. At the time, the school board policy reportedly allowed elementary school students to travel. As a result, the trip could be paid for with school funds.

The Davis School District is defending its decision to not allow a sixth-grade team to attend a robotics competition.

But in a school board meeting last Tuesday, the board voted to change the language of their policy to exclude elementary kids from their travel policy.

“They took the word “elementary school” students out of the policy the night before we needed to register,” Michael Douglas told KSL NewsRadio. “Which is pretty shady.”

The original policy before April 19 read as follows:

Extended travel requests shall be considered from junior high schools and elementary schools when the request is from a program endorsed by the district Teacher and Learning Department…the program is an extension of, and integral to the academic core, and the student representatives have won a state competition related to the program…

After that vote by the school board, the policy excluded the phrase “elementary schools.” 

At the meeting, board members even discussed this team specifically. During the meeting, the new policy was clarified that would indeed eliminate the sixth-grade team from traveling. 

“There’s no way to charge for it,” said Ben Onofrio, Davis School District’s attorney who presented the change to the board at that meeting. “It’s not on the fee schedule for elementary.” 

But Douglas alleges he paid $90 for his son to participate in the school’s Vex robotics club. It’s something he says isn’t on the district’s fee schedule.

“Let the school use trust land fund money, let them use fundraising money,” said Douglas. “This isn’t the only way the kids can go.”

District response

A spokesman for the district is defending the board’s vote.

“The policy now reflects a practice that has occurred in our district for years,” Davis District Spokesman Chris Williams told KSL NewsRadio.

When asked why the district couldn’t honor the original policy and enforce the new one going forward, Williams said, “the school board accepts policy, so they voted unanimously to change its own policy.” 

Douglas claims the school board “pulled the carpet out” from the sixth-grade team. Saying communications from the school before this policy change had them believing the students could go on the trip.

“And now they’re (the team is) in jeopardy of not being able to go as a team, teachers are having to pay their own way.”

Other allegations

Douglas also claims that one school board member worked behind the scenes to change the policy. While she advocated otherwise to parents.

“Even though we thought she was helping support her constituents and their students at Valley View…she worked behind the scenes to have the verbiage changed…the eve of this competition,” Douglas said.

KSL has chosen not to name that school board member until she can be reached for comment.

Douglas also alleges that the district administration has blocked the Davis Education Foundation, the district’s fundraising organization, from using its 501(c)(3) status to let corporations get tax-exempt status for donations to help pay for the team’s trip.

“The cherry on top of this whole thing is that we have third-party donors that are interested in sending this team. But the district is blocking access,” said Douglas.

A claim Williams says that doesn’t involve the district. 

“That’s their decision, that’s not our decision,” Williams said.

The team is now taking donations through a GoFundMe. And Douglas says corporations can get their 501(c)(3) status now through the Kaysville Robotics Association. 

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Davis School District defends not sending 6th grade robotics team to World Championships