With Commentary In Bold. A.T.
REGION 10 SCHOOLS
September 10, 2007
From: Beth Duffy, Chairperson of the Region 10 Board of Education
On August 31st U.S. District Judge, Mark Kravitz denied the injunction requested by Avery Doninger and her mother to void the election of senior class secretary at Lewis Mills High School. Until the case documents became public, Region 10 officials and board members were restricted by privacy laws from publicly discussing the case. The press has done a great job of covering Avery's version of the story. However, there has been very little coverage of the district's side. Now it's time to set the record straight.
The injunction would have recognized the write-in vote -- suppressed by school officials -- that elected Avery Doninger. The injunction would have allowed Avery and the administration candidate to serve as co-secretaries. The referenced documents became public records on Aug. 22. If school board lawyer Christine Chinni or Superintendent Paula Schwartz wrote this press release, how could it possibly set anything straight? They have a documented history of deep issues with candor. For example, they denied in writing that the write-in ballots existed and that there was a retainer agreement for the back-up law firm in the civil rights case.
Despite what has been reported in the press, Ms. Niehoff and Mrs. Schwartz did not infringe on Avery Doninger's First Amendment rights. Judge Kravitz ruled that they acted appropriately in rendering Avery ineligible to run for the office of senior class secretary because she deliberately and publicly circulated information that was vulgar, false and incited members of the community to disrupt the central office. Avery took her action after Ms. Niehoff had addressed the issue of appropriate behavior of class officers with her that same day. Ms. Niehoff then withdrew her support of Avery's candidacy only after it was clear that Avery did not understand that her conduct was unbecoming a class officer.
Kravitz did NOT rule that Niehoff or Schwartz acted appropriately. Douche Bag means contemptible person. The actions of the contemptible persons in this case are vulgar. Schwartz and Niehoff cancelled Jamfest and they are trying to get away with denying it. This school district is becoming famous for its position that public oversight and accountability are tantamount to disruption. How dare the taxpayers call the woman behind the curtain! Niehoff has not demonstrated the intellectual capacity to understand appropriate conduct.
Holding the position of class officer at Lewis Mills is not a right - it is a privilege. The definition of privilege in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is "a right or immunity granted as an advantage or favor esp. to some and not to others". At Lewis Mills, the privilege of running for class office must be earned through good citizenship, and appropriate behavior. Mrs. Doninger has admitted publicly that she believes her daughter's behavior was neither appropriate nor acceptable. That means she agrees with the assessment of her daughter's behavior made by the Region 10 administration! She just disagrees with the consequences imposed by the school district, and that is why this matter was in federal court.
People who tamper with student records, back-date files and subvert the democratic process are not role models for citizenship. In the United State of America, government cannot be allowed to punish citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights, no matter how small the punishment.
I should point out here that Region 10 did not start this lawsuit. It was filed by Avery Doninger, her mother and their lawyer, in spite of numerous attempts by the school district to work out a compromise. Our administrators have acted and continue to act in a professional, ethical and responsible manner. We have tried to settle this matter on at least two occasions and have been met with unreasonable demands by the Doningers. We will continue to defend the administration as long as necessary.
The school district should admit various civil rights violations and apologize. What's unreasonable about recognizing the actual election results and having co-secretaries?
Citing Constitutional rights as protection for bad behavior does that incredible document a grave disservice. This is an issue of standards. We have high standards for our students in Region 10 - good behavior, strong academic achievement, good sportsmanship and civil behavior to one another. Sometimes students make bad decisions because they are young, inexperienced and impulsive. When that happens, we should attempt to help the student learn from his/her mistake. That was done in this case. When a student repeatedly makes the same bad decision, it is the school's responsibility to impose consequences. That was also done here. But if our school system backed down on a fair and just consequence for bad behavior, then we would be letting down the other 2859 students in our district and our communities as well. Judge Krawitz recognized that in his ruling. We have high standards in Region 10, and I for one am proud we do.
Obviously the Bill of Rights has been suspended at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington, CT, making this school district a national poster child for vouchers. The illegitimate authority pulling the levers of power must be removed.
There are many opportunities at Lewis Mills for an intelligent, passionate, determined young lady like Avery to hone her leadership skills. Class secretary was just one of them. I know that both Ms. Niehoff and Mrs. Schwartz would like nothing better than to find an opportunity for Avery to shine in her senior year. I hope that she opens the door to that opportunity.
Cut the patronizing crap. You are drowning in it. If you knew what you were doing, you would not be in this position now.