Letter: Morris Failed To Protect Children


Photo: Meg for Unsplash

This letter appeared previously in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

I am the parent of a child harmed by bullying and gender discrimination in the Amherst Regional Middle School. When The Graphic articles detailing a pattern of transphobic actions against children at the school came out, I felt so much rage at how many children were hurt, and how much our administration knew, but did nothing.

A friend told me that now that it was in the open, the community could help carry that rage. She was right. I felt lifted up when the community rallied at the Middle School, and buoyed when so many showed up at School Committee meetings to express their support and their outrage. I had been fighting for my child for so long, and now I felt others join in that fight. But the opposite is also true.

When a small group of residents wrote to the School Committee to express their unwavering support of Superintendent Michael Morris, highlighted in the Gazette in a July 14 article [“Morris returning as superintendent”], I felt kicked in the gut.

Did they not believe us when we told of how our children were barked at, called homophobic slurs, harassed in bathrooms, and were dismissed, misnamed, and misgendered by guidance counselors? Did they not believe the teachers and staff members that risked their jobs to speak up about a broken system? Did they not believe our children, who have developed PTSD and suicidal ideation, and yet still bravely spoke with investigators and reporters?

I submitted my concerns about gender discrimination to the district multiple times — never anonymously — and twice directly to Morris. He was informed of gender mistreatment directly by multiple staff members. He oversaw a district in which teachers and staff members felt powerless to protect our children. He allowed my child to be shattered.

Michael Morris is a mandated reporter who failed to protect our children. I would like to state openly and unequivocally that I do not feel safe with Morris in charge of our schools.

Maxine Oland

Maxine Oland is a resident of Amherst

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3 thoughts on “Letter: Morris Failed To Protect Children

  1. This is my why.

    This is why we are doing what we’re doing, asking for what we’re asking for, and gathering as a community to be visible and vocal.

    If you don’t get it already, or you’re still holding out for Mike Morris to be a good guy in this situation, or you think those calling for accountability are being divisive, I’d like to know if these things are still true after you read this heartbreaking letter.

    And if so, what is your why?

  2. Maxine, thank you for your courage in writing this letter. I’ve shared it with the following post:

    Since learning about the crisis at the local middle school last spring, I have: written letters to school committee members; attended school committee meetings; requested additional meetings; contacted local and state government officials; begun learning about candidates for the school committee and town council races coming up this fall; and I have started working with other concerned residents to organize and carry out actions for accountability, transparency, and equity on the part of our school committee and district administration. However, nothing I do in this moment will be as important and reading, listening to, and amplifying the voices of people directly impacted by all that happened (and didn’t happen) at ARMS. Please read and share this letter from a parent whom I’ve known for many years. We first met when she was a “storytime mom” during my time at The Carle, and although I don’t know their family outside of that context, they’ve been friendly faces in the community for years. I am heartbroken, and I am committed to supporting them and others impacted by the crisis with a call for the Regional School Committee to hold an immediate emergency meeting with public comment and a public vote on placing Superintendent Morris on administrative leave pending the Title IX investigation report.

  3. A note on the calls for Morris to be placed on leave until the conclusion of the Title IX investigation. We do not know the scope of that investigation, nor do we know if Morris is a subject of that investigation. The APEA has called for a thorough, independent investigation of Morris and his role in the debacle at ARMS. We know that Morris has been accused of obstructing investigations of complaints about bullying at ARMS and we know that he has been accused of not fulfilling his legal obligations as a mandatory reporter. These accusations must be fully investigated and Morris must be absolved of these charges if he is to be able to continue as Superintendent. It is possible that the Title IX investigation will not do this. Morris’ previous accomplishments, whatever they may be, make no difference if he violated the law or if he lied to the public about what he knew and when. Only a thorough and independent investigation can clear up the doubt and mistrust that currently plagues Morris’ leadership.

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