We will not allow hate of any kind in our schools
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As you may know, there was a rally held at Middletown High School North on June 28th, called Spread Love Not Hate. The rally was promoted publicly by both high schools and Board.
It was advertised as a Unity walk to erase lines between sides and bring the community together. It was promoted as "no politics and no sides". Instead, it was a Black Lives Matter protest where some students held signs stating ACAB (all cops are bastards), F-12 (F the police), All cops are murders and images of a character from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is an image often used by Antifa to signify that all cops are pigs. They heckled our police chief and other members of the community. There were multiple Board of Education members and teachers present and none of them did anything to remove the signs or the hecklers or stop the hate speech that took place on school grounds. In fact the web page for the event clearly had no issue with the signs that were held, as they posted some of them as their cover images on Facebook the next day.
Immediately following the event, I reached out to the Board of Education to ask them to denounce the hate speech and signs and they refused. After submitting multiple OPRA requests, it is clear that Board of Education President, and others were involved in planning what she referred to as "protest" on school grounds, and used district resources to assist the event organizers. According to the Code of Ethics for School Board Members found on nj.gov, Board Members agree they they will not "surrender their personal judgement to special interest or partisan political groups or to use the schools for personal gain or for the gain of friends".
I have personally reached out many times in an attempt to resolve this in a way that would accomplish the unity this event was supposed to provide. Not only has the Board refused, but now stated in an email that she plans to make this an annual event.
Here are the things that are proven as a result of the OPRA requests and public posts made by the group:
- Board of Education(or a representative from the district she sent in her place) attended multiple planning meetings for the event and reached out to various town officials for help in executing the event. In addition, she requested other staff, such as Dr. Bill George to provide assistance for the event.
- claimed that the event was not publicized by the schools, yet Spread Love Not Hate publicly thanks MTHS North and South for publicizing the event on their pages.
- Dr. George attended at least one planning meeting and arranged portable bathrooms, a stage, sound system, security and electricity for the event.
- claimed it was an outside event, but numerous emails show her involvement in the planning and execution of the event. In addition, the group did not fill out a school permit, or provide insurance or security, which would be the norm for outside events. Liability was placed on the school and the district and town picked up the cost of private security, police, etc.
- Spread Love Not Hate publicly thanked and the Board of Ed for their assistance with the event and thanked them for their donations on behalf of the BOE.
- Spread Love Not Hate publicly thanked teachers for staffing their tables at the event and marching with students. None of the teachers intervened or publicly denounced the hate speech that took place.
- Board Members and Nick DiFranco attended the event and did nothing to intervene. Members of the Board publicly praised the event during the BOE meeting and made no mention, or denouncement of, the graphic hate signs that were held or other speech.
- There are pictures from the event page showing the ACAB and Diary of a Wimpy Kid images, which students were allowed to hold.
Although I would hope all of us believe in freedom of speech, I can't imagine the consequences if a pro-police rally were held at the school and similar signs were present. The reaction would be swift and loud, which it should be. This situation should be no different. There is no room for hate of any kind in schools and our teachers and Board of Ed have a responsibility to ensure that. Despite multiple people reaching out and asking for a denouncement, they have refused. They have failed horribly in this case.
As a result, we are asking to step down from the Board of Education and Nick Di Franco and Dr. George be to publicly censured for their involvement in an event on school grounds that allowed such hateful signs against our police and for their refusal to denounce it. We also ask that any teachers who were involved in the event be disciplined appropriately and offered additional sensitivity training to ensure that all students - including those of police officers - feel safe going to school.
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