Letter: There Will Be No Healing In Our Community Without Transparency And Accountability


Photo: Alex Jackman. Unsplash

The following letter was sent to the Regional School Committee on July 14, 2023.

I write with a heavy heart to urge you to immediately place Dr. Michael Morris on administrative leave pending a report from the Title IX investigation into anti-trans bias and actions at Amherst Regional Middle School (ARMS). To do otherwise perpetuates the abdication of leadership and care that student reporters from The Graphic exposed, exacerbates inequities, and dooms Morris to failure under circumstances of profound mistrust and hurt.

I do not know Morris well personally, but as the parent of seven Amherst Regional Public Schools (ARPS) students dating back to 2004, I’ve long regarded him as a compassionate, level-headed, and wise teacher and administrator. The respect and concern I’ve held for Morris amidst the current crisis are grounded in my personal history in the district, and they do not alleviate simultaneous disappointment and sadness. My heart breaks for those who feel violated, unsafe, and let down by our school district, and I am dismayed by how some in our community (including some School Committee members) have dismissed, ignored, and gaslighted them.

It is indisputable that ARMS queer students and their parents experienced pain, fear, and betrayal. While the precise actions and inactions that led to this harm are under investigation, administrative leave is appropriate for the ARMS guidance counselors (Hector Santos, Delinda Dykes, and Tania Cabrera) alleged to be involved in intentionally misgendering, deadnaming, and otherwise disrespecting and hurting trans students, as well as the person who hired and supervised those staff members (Doreen Cunningham). Their administrative-leave status may offer comfort to those directly harmed that their concerns are taken seriously; it also can affirm to other queer-identified people in the district that anyone who might deny our dignity or treat us with disrespect and cruelty will be held accountable. In contrast, the School Committee’s failure to place Morris on administrative leave now that his medical leave has concluded undermines any such potential comfort and affirmation while further eroding trust in his leadership and your own. As others have mentioned, this failure is also fraught with concerns of racial bias since the four people named above on administrative leave are BIPOC employees, while Morris is white.

Ultimately, I do not understand how the School Committee can believe that Morris’s return to work before the Title IX investigation concludes is the right and ethical step for him personally, for his successful job performance, for students and families, or for staff—especially given the Amherst Pelham Education Asssociation’s 80% no-confidence vote in him and Cunningham. I hold out hope for healing and reconciliation in the knowledge that neither is possible without accountability and transparency, and I call on the School Committee to offer our community movement toward both by taking the difficult and necessary step of placing Dr. Morris on administrative leave.


Megan D. Lambert St. Marie

Megan D. Lambert St. Marie is a resident of Amherst and mother of seven current and former ARPS students.

Spread the love

2 thoughts on “Letter: There Will Be No Healing In Our Community Without Transparency And Accountability

  1. This letter is powerful and necessary. Our school committee members are not taking their jobs very serious when they do not perform as responsible people. What message does this give to our greater community? That is okay to abuse children??? What a sad awful state of affairs.

    I am the Mother of two ARHS graduates and Grandmother of two ARHS graduates and foster parent of four foster children who attended the Amherst Elementary Schools and ARMS. I know Morris on a longtime level. We were co-workers at Ft. River where he taught fifth grade and I taught sixth alongside Roger Wallace. I filed a complaint when Morris was principal at Crocker Farm. My grandchild’s hand was aggressively grabbed by a “lunch monitor” who was also a school bus driver. Nothing was done except to have this grown up stay on the other side of the cafeteria while my grandchild ate lunch. I have also filed racial discrimination issues with then superintendent, Maria Geryk who hired an attorney, instead of taking responsibility and apologizing for the harm my grandchild suffered while attending ARMS. Morris was assistant superintendent at that time. Currently I hold a seat on the School Equity Advisory Committee’s Restorative Justice Working Group. Do people know his position of superintendent was assigned? He never openly applied with a qualified pool of candidates. How does that work anyway?

Leave a Reply

The Amherst Indy welcomes your comment on this article. Comments must be signed with your real, full name & contact information; and must be factual and civil. See the Indy comment policy for more information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.