The following letter was sent to Interim School Superintendent Doug Slaughter on September 27, 2023.
At last week’s Regional School Committee meeting you announced that the results of the Title IX investigation into the mistreatment of LGBTQIA+ students at Amherst Regional Middle School would be complete soon, but would be unavailable to the public or the members of the Regional School Committee. This is disappointing news for a community that has been asking for accountability and transparency since the beginning of this crisis. It is also frustrating to have been told for months to wait for the results of an investigation which are now inaccessible.
You stated that legal counsel has advised you to keep the results of the report from the public, making them only available to people who have historically been in Mike Morris’s administration and inner circle. This crisis calls for new eyes and leadership we can trust. It is crucial for the safety of the students and the trust of the community that the people receiving these results are not people who might be implicated or people who have demonstrated a long history of protecting themselves and other administrators at the expense of children.
The job of the district’s legal counsel is to protect the district from liability. The job of the Superintendent is supposed to be to protect the interests of the children in the district’s care. As Regional School Committee members expressed at the meeting where you announced your intention to withhold the investigation results, it is impossible to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening again if we are unwilling to publicly acknowledge and learn from what has actually happened. It is only through transparency that trust can be rebuilt and children and families can feel safe at ARMS. You are therefore in a position where legal counsel’s advice not to share any of the investigation with the public is in direct conflict with your role and responsibilities vis-à-vis ARPS families.
The district’s lawyer is doing their job in offering advice that centers the district’s potential liability, but their advice is not dictum. It is the responsibility of the superintendent with the Regional School Committee to take that information and then make a decision based on all factors, including the needs of children and families. Through redaction you are able to protect the confidentiality and identities of specific individuals while still releasing the facts and findings of what has occurred. We are urging you to redact what is absolutely necessary and release the results of the investigation. We also ask that you share publicly which individuals within the administration are designated to receive and respond to the report.
You have an important choice to make and you have the power to make it. You can tow the line for the previous administration so that those who held power and failed to protect children can continue to avoid accountability and the district can avoid further liability, or you can choose transparency and begin to set this community on a path toward healing. There is plenty of precedent for the public sharing of Title IX report findings. It is within your control to place the needs of the community above the needs of the administration.
Please, prioritize the needs of the community. We are asking you to choose transparency and accountability by sharing the results of the Title IX investigation. It is time for ARPS to put the needs of children first.
Lamikco Magee for The ad hoc Black Caucus of Amherst
Martha Toro for The ad hoc Latinx Caucus of Amherst
Ali Wicks-Lim for The ad hoc LGBTQIA+ Caucus of Amherst