Sonya Harris

Blackfoot School District
Zone 4
Email Address:

Candidate Responses

What do you believe is the fundamental role of education?
I believe that the fundamental role of education is to give students the skills to become life-long learners. I believe the true test of an educated person is their ability to understand information and to determine what is true through their own research.
How would you promote rigorous academic instruction and excellence in your school district?
I believe it is always best to look at data. School districts should be examining what high-performing schools are doing and then following their models. Ongoing data comparisons should be a part of the decisions about curriculum, class-size, teacher retention and other district concerns.
How do you define Critical Race Theory? When implemented in school policies and curriculum, do you think Critical Race Theory differs from simply “teaching history?”
CRT is the idea that all discrepancies in outcome are the result of racial discrimination. I do not agree with this premise. I believe that students should be taught complete history where they can see both the evils of slavery and the work that our nation has done to end it. Students also need to understand the reality of how many nations still allow slavery today.
How do you define Social Emotional Learning (SEL)? Would you encourage the implementation of any SEL model in your school district? If so, which model and why?
I am still learning about SEL. I do believe that we need to watch closely to keep anything out of our schools that in any way undermines the authority and values of parents. I also believe that schools need to be focused on the basics; reading, writing, math, and proven science.
How would you respond to the Idaho State Board and Department of Education’s recent dissemination of resources such as the SEL Roadmap for Reopening Schools, which argues that schools should adopt anti-racist practices, focus on social justice, and conduct staff-wide implicit bias trainings? Should teachers be required to attend these kinds of trainings?
I am a strong advocate for local school boards. I believe decisions about SEL, anti-racist and bias training should never be mandated by the state. The state board and the state department of education should be a support to local districts, rather than making top-down rules.
Should your school district be required to teach a sex education curriculum? If so, should this curriculum include instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity? Should parents and guardians be required to provide consent before their children participate in any sex education curriculum?
I have encouraged and supported a policy in my school district that requires parent permission for any classroom lessons or teacher-led discussions about human sexuality that go beyond basic anatomy. I feel that parents have the right to know what is being taught and decide if their child should participate. Districts should never be required to teach a sex ed curriculum. Idaho state law gives the power to local school boards to make these decisions.
How should school districts respond to the Idaho School Boards Association’s recommendation that transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify?
The Idaho School Boards Association is not the authority on this matter.
Do you support mask mandates in schools as a COVID-19 mitigation strategy? Do you support implementation of any other policies or practices designed to mitigate the effects of COVID-19?
With the current research and information that I am aware of, I do not support mask mandates in schools as a COVOD-19 mitigation strategy. I do, however, support decisions to close specific classrooms or even individual schools for a few days if the case numbers become too high.