Opinion: Amherst School Officials Continue to Fail


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The announcement that the Title IX report will not be openly shared continues a pattern we have seen among some elected officials in town. They become insulted when their actions are questioned. They even claim to be the victim of bullying. These officials expect us, the public, to trust them and take their word that things are fine and all is as it should be.

Well, there were credible allegations that things at the Middle School were in violation of Title IX. There were credible allegations that children were being bullied and school officials were not responding as required by law. Now, top officials are telling us, the public, that we need to trust them to act correctly, while information about what actually transpired is not shared with the taxpayers. Again, we are expected to trust them to do the right thing.

Let me point out that trust is a by-product of past behavior. It is like the wake of a boat, something that follows what has occurred. Trust is established when people’s actions meet expectations. In the absence of such evidence, it is prudent to withhold trust. As they say, words are cheap. What matters are actions. When the words match the actions, trust is built.

We are, once again, being urged accept the assurances of school officials that they will do the right thing in response to the report of the Title IX investigation. That is not sufficient for me at all. The purpose of the investigation should be to clearly document for the public what transpired. The audience of the report should be the taxpayers who choose those who should be carrying out the wishes of the taxpayers. Instead, we are being treated in a paternalistic manner. “Just trust us to do the right thing. If you question our words or past actions, you are bullying us.”

I am not swayed by those who say that public discourse in Amherst is too strident. The public school system operates at the expense of taxpayers. We have a right to know how those monies are being spent. We have a right to know whether the school officials are fulfilling the policies of the town as well as state and federal law. When things occur that call that into question, it is incumbent on public officials and school administrators to demonstrate that they are now acting in accord with town policies and state and federal law. The proven way to demonstrate that is way to do that is to act transparently.

Acting transparently begins by explaining what transpired. There is a long history of public accountings for illegalities that have occurred at all levels of government across the country. Names are named and the public is informed. There is then a public discussion about how to repair the damage that has been done, and how to safeguard against it in the future. If those in office now refuse to do that, then I see no reason to keep them in office. I want administrators and elected officials who treat the public as their bosses, for whom they work. I have zero interest in seeing paternalistic individuals do as they see fit, while keeping the public uninformed about the state of the institution for whom they are stewards.

Michael Burkart is a resident of Amherst

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4 thoughts on “Opinion: Amherst School Officials Continue to Fail

  1. Honestly I feel like all names / could be redacted
    And the rest shared
    I am not looking to overflow a already boils pot
    Maybe parents could redact their child’s and their names and share the emails they sent to administrators at the middle school regarding concerns
    This was the same info the title IX people used to make a decision
    While we won’t know exactly what the report says we will know exactly how many times admin failed to help the kids

  2. I’m as interested as everyone else is in what is inside of that Title IX report. I can hardly contain my curiosity.
    But I’m also aware that sometimes state and federal law prevent what we personally think would be ideal, especially for our prying eyeballs.
    I think that that is probably the case in this instance.
    Our school officials would do well to, as best they can, cite the law that is preventing them from full disclosure of the report.
    And our residents, including those who think that they are the smartest people in any room that they walk into, would do well to refrain from blaming those we elect when they endeavor to follow the law, inconvenient though it may be. Perhaps a little hesitation before reacting, as Mr. Burkart does above, might be wise.

  3. I wonder if the parents of children who were harmed over the last year at the Middle School will be reassured by Mr. Morse’s admonition to trust that the School Board and school officials are doing the right thing by withholding the title IX report.

  4. no one is saying to reveal names of the harmed, names of parties indirectly involved. We have all ways shielded those parties. For trust to develop offenders’ step by step actions (the white paper style) results of those behaviors, names, timing, dates, etc should be revealed. This is not abt curiosity or stirring a boiling pot but getting it down so as to not reoccur (bringing the pot to simmer).
    A reoccurring complaint in Amherst over the decade(s) is ‘lack of communication’. The “lacks transparency” comment is a direct result of the communication shortage. Trust, needed to work: thru, past, together, for better… comes from trustworthy behavior (over time).
    A court of law protects the innocent (victims, by-standers, uninvolved, etc) and examines, in public, what happened. THAT builds trust. Lack of which has led to the incivility of current public discourse. The bifurcation of our society (us / them). Let’s get that trust back thru actions matching words, coming together at times other than sitting in on deliberations, debates, opposing parties during votes, etc (but socializing, shopping, attending entertainment, church, etc) and by examining what has occurred out of public eyesight, in detail, to understand our common role in preventing in the future…

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