Open Letter To The Amherst Community.
In a town like ours – some degree of highly educated folks, a large degree of highly opinionated folks – disagreement and dissent is expected and should be encouraged. How else do we navigate and travel the roads of independent thought?
Some things are not negotiable, however. Whatever your opinion, gay marriage is legal. Whatever your opinion, individuals of different racial backgrounds are legally allowed to be married. And, whatever your opinion, students in public schools are protected from discrimination on the basis of gender. Students have the right to be free from discrimination in many categories, in fact; race, religion, disability status – you know the drill, that’s not negotiable regardless of your opinion.
Thanks to the fearless reporting of Sara Barber-Just and the students at the Graphic, staff at ARMS were revealed to have discriminated against students who identify as queer or transgender. (see also here). Multiple students who have experienced discrimination have confirmed this story. Teachers, witnesses, have corroborated the student stories, and told stories of their own.
To those of you in this community who accuse the Amherst Pelham Education Association (APEA) of having an “agenda” – this letter is for you. Shame on you! To those of you who want to delay the firing of Mike Morris and Doreen Cunningam until the Title IX report comes back, shame on you!. As Superintendent, Morris stood by and allowed multiple concerns and complaints about the guidance staff to go unchallenged. How is that acceptable to you?
To all of you who are supporting the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent, the guidance staff at ARMS, and regional school committee members Peter Demling and Allison McDonald, stop hiding behind buzz words like “APEA agenda”. Say what you mean. You mean – the students are liars. You are telling the community that you believe the educators are liars. Every time you defend Morris, every time you slam the APEA for having an agenda – side note – what agenda? To be paid fairly and protect the students from harm? Every time you repeat the nonsense that Peter Demling has been spouting during school committees, all you are really saying is the students and educators are liars.
Stop the gaslighting. Children were harmed under Morris’ watch and he did nothing. Right now you don’t think you have enough facts to take action? Do you really want to wait until there is an avalanche of information smothering your rhetoric, and you will have to admit, finally, that we should have taken action immediately? I doubt that’s what you really want.
While I’m here, it’s time to censure Peter Demling for his toxic rumor mongering. He alleged that there was election fraud in the APEA’s no confidence vote for Morris and Cunningham, while admitting that he had no actual facts and wouldn’t do an investigation to find out. If that isn’t creating a toxic rumor mill, I don’t know what is.
Believe the teachers. Believe the students. This is your opportunity to be on the right side of history.
Laura Jane Hunter
Laura Jane Hunter is a parent of two ARMS students and Amherst resident