Throughout the summer, concerned parents and residents of the Amherst Regional Public Schools (ARPS) district asked for transparency and accountability surrounding allegations of bullying and discrimination by both students and guidance counselors at the Amherst Regional Middle School. At first, these requests were largely met with dismissiveness or a complete lack of response.
Even once it was confirmed that multiple Title IX investigations, as well as investigations that fell outside of the jurisdiction of Title IX, were underway, the ongoing silence from the school committee was defended both by members of the school committee itself, and members of the public via op-ed pieces in local newspapers. Advocates concerned for the health and safety of LGBTQIA+ students were told to wait for the results of the Title IX reports before “demanding” action, and they were called pushy, unreasonable, vitriolic, emotional, and bullying for refusing to do so.
We now know that at least one Title IX report is complete, and that involved parties have been able to review the portions of the report that relate directly to them. There has been no further mention of the other investigations, Title IX or otherwise.
On September 19, at a joint meeting of the Union 26, Pelham, and Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committees, interim superintendent Doug Slaughter shared that the report is complete, but he has been advised by legal counsel that the report should not be shared due to personnel concerns. When members of the school committee asked if that meant that it would also not be made available to them, they were told that it would not. School Committee member Irv Rhodes stated that withholding the report from the school committee would mean that the committee could not do its job–figuring out where things went wrong, and changing policies accordingly, to prevent such situations in the future. Even a report with redactions where absolutely necessary could be useful in this scenario.
On September 24, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed for the completed Title IX investigation report, as well as any related investigation reports that might be in the works. Legally, the district must respond to this request by either producing the requested records at that time or an estimated date of delivery, as well as the reason for the delay. If the records are not released, a specific statutory exemption must be cited. According to state law, if exemptions can be resolved with redactions, the redacted report should be shared.
In the meantime, on September 27, an open letter from the Ad Hoc Black Caucus, Latinx Caucus and LGBTQIA+ Caucuses of Amherst was sent to interim superintendent Slaughter, expressing concerns about how many of the current administrators and decision-makers were part of the inner circle of the former superintendent, and asked Superintendent Slaughter to begin to rebuild trust with the community by releasing the facts and findings of the investigation. According to Ali Wicks-Limb, spokesperson for the LGBTQIA+ caucus, so far there has been no response.