Amherst Regional High School on a cold Monday
The following documents were, technically, not public documents since they involve employee performance. But the privacy exemption in Public Documents law was enacted to protect the employee -- not the governmental institution.
In his four page response to the written charges used at the "hearing" 2/4/14 the school employee (who works with his hands) took issue with a number of key points. First and foremost he did not use the N-word, the one that ends in "r" and has six letters.
He used the 5 letter version that ends in "a", just to illustrate the version of the word his son used with a black friend as a term of endearment.
And -- even more important -- he asked permission before using the word within earshot of Dean of Students Mary Custard, "an African American woman".
School officials, however, seems to have no trouble using both versions of the N-word in their 2 page indictment.
The father, who I will call George (but that is not his name) reports his son did use the term "fucking bullshit" because by that point, after a week of bullying, he was extremely frustrated by the lack of response school officials had brought to bear.
To recap: George went to Dean of Students Mary Custard on Wednesday January 22 after his son had a "confrontation" with three black students the previous day.
Being a polite ex-Marine George did not just barge into the office and grab a seat. He asked Ms. Custard's secretary if it was okay to speak to her and after she checked with Ms. Custard the answer was "yes".
He remained standing the whole time because Ms. Custard never invited him to sit down.
That day was the only time the N-word (short version) was ever mentioned. George was justifiably disconcerted when he learned Ms. Custard had contacted all the other parents (one of whom works in the schools, but not so much with his hands) to get their side of the story.
That same day during an "evacuation" George (who is after all a school employee) did end up in the Middle School auditorium where he spotted his son, who was now hanging out with the same black friend he posted the congratulatory note to on Facebook using the short version of the N-word.
His son did point out the three kids who were bullying him, but at no time did George make an attempt to interact with them.
On Thursday January 23 George once again very briefly discussed his son's precarious situation with Ms. Custard and once again asked the secretary who asked Ms. Custard if it was okay for him to speak with her.
At no point was he told to "make an appointment."
Friday January 24 was the day the verbal abuse escalated to the physical. One of the kids laid a hand on George's son. Again he went back to see Ms. Custard, again he asked her secretary first for the okay. Only this time he brought his union rep as a witness.
And that witness will verify that George did not point his finger at Ms. Custard or act in a threatening or discourteous manner. Yes, while leaving her office his irate son did say "fucking bullshit," but George did reprimand him, telling him to "calm down" and "watch your language."
George, his son and union rep then went to Principal Mark Jackson's office but ended up talking with Assistant Principal Michael Thompson who promised to set up a meeting for Monday January 27 (the day the school closed because of the "threat" posted to Facebook Confessions site).
George never said Ms. Custard was "biased" but his son certainly thought that was the case. Mr. Thompson told George's son to go to an early lunch and if there are further problems with the three belligerent students he should seek out an authority figure.
Well that did not work, as the pre-lunchtime encounter was the worst yet.
The kid who got physical with George's son stormed out of the school that morning. George's son went from the High School to the Middle School and then drove over to Northampton to pick up his mother from her place of employment.
The mother returned to the High School and was seen by Ms. Custard (amazingly, without an appointment).
In fact it was the mother who suggested the three kids antagonizing her son and school officials all sit down together on Monday January 27 to try to make peace.
That of course never happened because the "threat" posted to Facebook the week before finally appeared on Saturday night, January 25 and was spotted by School Superintendent Maria Geryk the following night.
She called the Chief of Police and Amherst Town Manger and with the help of I.T. Director Kris Pacunas George's son was identified around 3:00 AM, Monday morning.
In a panic Amherst Regional High School was closed, and state and federal authorities swept the school building for bombs and/or guns, neither of which were found. Police now agree George's guns were never out of his elaborate lock up and so were never smuggled into the school.
George's son received a 12 day suspension for the Facebook "threat," use of the "N-word" and making a scene in the school hallways. But George managed to keep his job, although he was suspended without pay for three days for those three visits to Ms. Custard, totaling less than 15 minutes.
And he now has a a blemish in his personnel file, which had been spotless.
The Schools never reported the bullying incidents to the police, and the three students who directed their ire at George's son received no suspensions.
Perhaps it's time for the Regional School Committee to provide additional oversight on this sorry affair.