Monday, July 7, 2014

A Climate Of Fear?

APD @ ARHS

Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone has confirmed that his department did NOT do an investigation into the most recent racial incident just now coming to light where a white student was “aggressively and seriously” assaulted by black students. 

The parent of the victim did not wish to press charges and furthermore wanted NO police involvement whatsoever.  Chief Livingstone stated that once that was confirmed with the parents APD involvement ceased.

ARHS state approved anti-bullying plan
Yes, as a parent I can understand the natural inclination to protect your child from the glare of public scrutiny.  But there's a fine line between right to privacy and the general public's right to know -- especially when that general public also has children in the school system.

Last year a young woman under the influence of alcohol fell on Fearing Street, hitting her head on a curb.  She was transported to Baystate Medical Center where she died.  At the parents request UMass agreed not to release any information about the sad incident.  Which of course in this Internet age, backfired. 

Amherst College received a deserved slew of negative publicity for the way this mishandled rape cases, one that resulted in a young man, Trey Malone, committing suicide

Simply put, if it's not now mandatory for a public or private school, kindergarten-through-college, to report a serious crime (bullying, physical assault, rape, etc) to the local police department and/or District Attorney -- especially if it's a hate crime -- then it damn well should be!

90 comments:

Walter Graff said...

Amherst only acts on fear. It speaks volumes for the government, school system, and the residents. Dysfunction at its worst.

Anonymous said...

So bottom line is schools did nothing wrong. There was no cover up. They handled it like the do in every situation at the middle school when kids disobey the rules. They mete out punishment and do not issue a press release. They handled it correctly.

Larry Kelley said...

Depends on what you consider "bullying," and whether the Principal had a "reasonable basis to believe that criminal charges may be pursued."

And of course you have to wonder if it had been a black youth seriously assaulted by white students, would they have handled it differently?

Anonymous said...

The aggressors should have been arrested for assault and battery with or without the cooperation of the victim.

Anonymous said...

Your use of the melodramatic phrase "a climate of fear" is based on pure speculation, and nothing more.

As a former prosecutor who has spent considerable time with violent crime victims since 1991, I have noticed that the reasons for not wanting to go forward with the police, to the extent that they are discernible (some people simply remain mute), don't fit into neat little categories. Some people are fearful; some people simply want to move on and put the incident behind them; some people want to focus on forgiveness; some people think that they will be personally embarrassed.

I have gone forward with cases without victim cooperation, usually when there were children caught in the presence of violence perpetrated by an adult. A prosecutor has to get lucky with evidence that shakes out of an incident. It helps if there was some cooperation at the beginning that involved the police doing some investigating. It's nearly impossible to succeed without resolute victim involvement and, finally, truthful,often grueling testimony in court.

I have also experienced what happens when an determinedly uncooperative victim (and family) gets angry when you've gone ahead and convicted her/his attacker anyway.

Rich Morse

Larry Kelley said...

That's why I used a question mark.

Anonymous said...

Did the school report it to the police or not? It seems to me, that is the most relevant question.
-- Mig

Larry Kelley said...

They did not.

According to Chief Livingstone:

"The school did not notify us at the request of the victim parent..
We did check with victim parent and that was confirmed."

Anonymous said...

I assumed when Larry titled this post Climate of Fear? that he was referring to Vira Douangmany's response to hearing about Shabbazz's false and slanderous statements at the EFT meeting, where she is quoted in the Gazette as saying what we should do in response is have a town-wide meeting to "decry the climate of fear and intimidation in the schools."

Larry Kelley said...

Yep.

But to repeat: I used a question mark.

Anonymous said...

Sonji Johnson-Anderson on MassLive: "I am most concerned that the governing body of our school district perceives the cries of parents and community members for justice and equality for our children and colleagues as somehow divisive and deliberately controversial."

Ms. Johnson-Anderson, if you don't want to appear "divisive and deliberately controversial", don't show up in groups of thirty to official town business meetings and heckle our elected officials with loud laughing and fake coughing and chants of "white power" and "white supremacists" while they are trying to speak and conduct our business. In other words, you all need to grow up follow rules and policy if you have something to say. Seriously, you guys appeared like bratty spoiled children at that last sc meeting.

And yes, you are all one group, otherwise you wouldn't have referred to Ms. Gardner as "one of ours".

Anonymous said...

So if the schools didn't notify the police, how did the police come to know about the incident?

If they checked in with the "victim parent" they must have heard about it somehow.

Anonymous said...

When I heard the "one of ours" comment made by Ms. Johnson-Anderson, I thought that she meant that Ms. Gardner is part of the ARHS community and correspondingly part of the Amherst community and that she should all care about Ms. Gardner's wellbeing -- in other words, Ms. Gardner is not alone.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Larry, how did the police know about the incident if the school did not tell them and the victim and his parents did not tell them either?

If you know, please tell. Thanks.
--Mig

Larry Kelley said...

Well I was the first to publish the memo sent to the Equity Task Force which graphically detailed the attack ("The white student was aggressively and seriously assaulted.") and since Thursday morning it has had over 8,000 views ...

Anonymous said...

Can we expect that the next headline will be "Nothing to See Here?"

Since the question mark apparently excuses everything.....

Larry Kelley said...

Comes in handy when you want to suggest something without really coming out and saying it.

Like, "Was that Anon an asshole?"

Anonymous said...

But, Larry, that doesn't explain how the police got contact info for the victim's parent. That wasn't in the memo.

Apparently, prior to the memo, the school assisted with the police making contact.

Your beef with the school administration is getting wafer thin.

Facts matter.

Anonymous said...

When I heard the "one of ours" comment made by Ms. Johnson-Anderson, I thought that she meant that Ms. Gardner is part of the ARHS community and correspondingly part of the Amherst community and that she (sic) should all care about Ms. Gardner's well being -- in other words, Ms. Gardner is not alone.

Huh. Well, let's look at her public statement in its context:


"Sonji Johnson-Anderson said she believed that if the committee was sincere about wanting to effect change in the school district, it would be more open to opportunities to hear those who wished to speak."

Johnson-Anderson, of Amherst, is an organizer with the Amherst chapter of the NAACP, OASIS and Stand Together Against Institutional Racism (STAIR), a group formed in response to the repeated racist incidents aimed at Amherst Regional High School MATH teacher Carolyn Gardner.

“Who we are as people — that’s not a joke,” she told the school committee. “We are people who are in pain. One of our own suffered great harm this school year.”



So, is the school committee not "part of the ARHS community and correspondingly part of the Amherst community" then? She clearly was saying that Carolyn Gardner is "one of their own" ie "people who are in pain".

It sure looks to me like she's saying that there's "us"--members of the groups she formed/is a member of and people of color--and "you guys who aren't doing anything about what happened to Gardner except for symbolic gestures."

I guess it's how you choose to read it. Everyone will judge for themselves I suppose.

Larry Kelley said...

Actually not.

And there's still the HUGE difference between this racial incident, where the School Committees issued an apology to the parent, and the case of Dylan Akalis where no such apology was issued (except for one by Mr. Shabazz on my Facebook page) and in fact they later fired his Dad on a trumped up charge.

Anonymous said...

Someone I know personally, who was appointed to the Equity Task Force, resigned immediately after the 6/28 ETF meeting in question, in response to Shabazz's many outrageous statements and claims at the meeting. Sad, because this guy is a brilliant, uber-intelligent, experienced man who could have brought a lot to the table.

I was told by another community member (not the one who resigned) that included in the lies Shabazz told at the meeting was his open claim to everyone there that the superintendent refused to provide him with documents he required concerning closing the achievement gap; documents which ALL the school committee members received well prior to the 6/28 meeting, in order to effectively evaluate the superintendents's past year's work. He said this in a flip way apparently, as if to imply "this is typical of her".

Note to Shabazz: there's a big difference between not receiving the documents you need to effectively run your sub-committee and to fairly evaluate the superintendent, and not caring enough to take the time to read them.

I was also told he said to everyone there that if he were ever to try to enter the high school that the superintendent would have him arrested. Claims like that will really help us move forward together as a community, Amilcar!

Larry Kelley said...

Actually the Equity Task Force meeting in question was 6/18 not 6/28.

So if you can't get that basic fact correct, what else are you screwing up?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand your point of view Larry. Are you saying that the "we" in Johnson-Anderson's statement

“Who we are as people — that’s not a joke. We are people who are in pain."

means "everyone who is a member of the Amherst community"? Or does her "we" exclude some members of the community?

I read it as a clearly divisive statement: "we" vs. "you".

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 6/18. Darn this old worn-out keyboard I bought off of Ed.

Anonymous said...

"What else are you screwing up?"

I'm just telling you what I heard. And you're welcome.

Larry Kelley said...

But I don't know who you are, your background, your reputation for being right or wrong.

And it depends where you heard it. The local bar, coffee shop or convenience store where everybody loves to bitch, or out on the golf course where the cool reliable people hang out.

black05roadking said...

The school system is starting to look like Amherst College, where many secrets are kept to uphold their reputation. As to why the young man's family chose not to press charges, we'll never know. I do believe however it's the job of the Amherst Police (and the school department) to do everything in their power to convince somebody that legal action is the right solution. I can only hope that's what they did.

Anonymous said...

The most flagrant piece of evidence supporting the fact that Sonji Johnson-Anderson does not consider the school community nor the greater community at large to be part of the "we" she speaks of is her rant at the school committee meeting which took place one or two weeks prior to the "fiasco" SC session. It was taped so anyone can view it.

At the beginning of that meeting, during public comment, Sonji Johnson-Anderson delivered a very aggressive and accusatory rant directed at the school committee and the schools administration. Along with recanting the "sluggish and anemic response" line which several have used, (including Shabazz,) within that rant she said to the committee and the superintendent: "You ask 'What more can we do (for Carolyn Gardner)?'" No one actually asked that question, yet she answers it herself, very aggressively and angrily stating: "I'm not here to tell you how to do your job! YOU figure it out!"

She could have said: "I have some ideas how we can support Carolyn Gardner, I'd like to set up a meeting with school administration and SC officials to share them. We are together in this."

If Sonji Johnson-Anderson really wanted the schools to do more, whatever they could, to support Carolyn Gardner, if she really considered "we" to include the school community, if she really wanted to provide support to Carolyn by any means necessary, she would have offered up the second possibility. Yet, she was willing to allow Carolyn to experience further pain until the school officials could figure it out.

As has been reported in the Gazette, the school committee chair attempted five times to set up a meeting to talk with the leaders of the most vocal of the organized groups (NAACP, STAIRS, OASIS) and they did not respond four times and cancelled the fifth time.

This is simply one example; Sonji Johnson-Anderson's approach and actions clearly demonstrate an "us vs them", "we vs you" perspective of the issues. "They" set out this year with a "Do you wanna go to war?" approach and I think they're getting what they asked for.

Anonymous said...

But I don't know who you are...

Larry, i thought you valued truth above all else.

Dr. Ed said...

that doesn't explain how the police got contact info for the victim's parent. That wasn't in the memo.

If a minor comes into the ER with injuries consistent with a physical assault, you better believe they are going to file a 51A Which sometimes DCF actually reads.

More likely than not, they are going to presume that the child's father did this -- having a conversation with the local police is usually part of an investigation of this type. Well, the APD thus has the child's name, it isn't that hard for them to find out where the child lives, and they confirm that their assistance is not desired.

Apparently, prior to the memo, the school assisted with the police making contact.

On what basis do you make that statement? DCF well might have given the APD the victim's name -- someone from the hospital might have called the APD directly.

Anonymous said...

Todays Gazette contains an article with the headline "Amherst residents, students don’t and didn’t know about middle school assault".

If Amherst residents and students didn't know about the assault, then how did Professor Shabazz (an Amherst resident) hear about it in order to comment on it, and on the perpetrators' motivations for committing the assault, at the task force meeting?

Anonymous said...

More headlines on this story in the Gazette today. Surely this is not what the school committee chairs et al. intended when they wrote that memo .... but maybe they didn't consider this.

One worth noting:
"Amherst residents, students don’t and didn’t know about middle school assault."

As commented earlier, even some school committee members themselves didn't know anything about this incident before reading it in the news and on this blog.

Maybe the incident wasn't quite as "well known" as the memo from the school committee chairs suggested.

Anonymous said...

I feel very sorry for the family whose child was injured and now whom is seeing this incident in the news over and over.

I hope that no one will publicly name the child who was injured or their family as Carpio did with that other incident. The family deserves their privacy.

Anonymous said...

I loved the comment in the Gazette this morning by Shavann Guest about the white kids who are racists. Memo to Shavann - it was black kids who beat up the white kid because he had the gall to be white.

Anonymous said...

Another day, another editorial by the Gazette (2nd in about a week) calling for more transparency and openness in our schools and by our school administration.

Did the Gazette "get it wrong" again, & some claimed last time?

Anonymous said...

Yes they did.

Larry Kelley said...

The sun'll come out tomorrow ... tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

What Shabazz and Johnson want is to keep stoking the fires. They want racial violence -- in particular they're hoping that some white kids decide to "retaliate" against a black kid. Then they and their political allies can wrap themselves in borrowed victimhood and run the Amherst school system with no one daring to oppose them.

And if no white kids do it . . . well, there's always the Tawana Brawley approach. Expect an "incident" this year one way or another.

Anonymous said...

Here is another theory, one Larry hinted at, on how the police may have learned of this.

Larry published the memo. The police read it on Larry's blog and learned there had been a "serious" assault" in the school.

The police contacted the administration and asked them about the assault and perhaps demanded to know why it had not been reported to the police in the first place.

The administration explained that it had been "handled internally" and that the student and his family did not wish to press charges.

The police contacted the family and confirmed this.

Case closed.

That is just a theory, but it fits with what all parties have stated. Remember, the Superintendent indicated to the Gazette it had been "handled" internally (new speak for "swept under the rug").

--Mig

Larry Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Kelley said...

Yes, so to sum it up: The Schools did not voluntarily contact APD over this most recent racial assault.

Just as they did not contact APD back in October when a racist note was left in a bathroom one day and a racist slur left on Carolyn Gardner's school room door the next day.

Although they did release that information in mid-February during "Warrior Week" which coincided with the information leaking out (mainly here on this blog) about the mistreatment of Dylan Akalis and his dad.

And of course they did not contact APD about the bullying or assault on Dylan Akalis at the end of January until Maria Geryk discovered his Facebook "threat," a cry for help posted in self defense.

Anonymous said...

...it had been "handled" internally (new speak for "swept under the rug")."

Actually that's really old, ancient speak; schools have been handling fights internally since I was getting my head rocked by bullies in the 70's.

I imagine you believe, Mig, that either there have been no fights in any of the other schools in surrounding communities, or that the administrators "swept them under the rug"? Can you show me some evidence that school administrators in surrounding communities deal with fights during school by calling in the cops?

Larry Kelley said...

South Hadley? Oh, yeah...Never mind.

Anonymous said...

What is the south Hadley reference you keep making, Larry?

Larry Kelley said...

You really are clueless. Figures.

Anonymous said...

I would still like to know how Shabazz heard about the assault and heard information which led him to make the statement that the three aggressors "went looking for the greatest student racist they could find."

If the episode was not well known in the community, even among some of his fellow sc members, where did he hear about it?

Sparky Speaks said...

A fair fight is 1 on 1 not 3 on 1

Anonymous said...

I would still like to know where a number of the anon posters to this blog get their information on our schools, including details which are not at all public.

Larry Kelley said...

Me too.

Anonymous said...

For me, it's from my kids.

Larry Kelley said...

Good source.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the south Hadley fight was and how the school handled it?

Larry Kelley said...

Poorly.

Phoebe Prince. Need I say more?

Anonymous said...

Are you really comparing a middle school fist fight to phoebe Prince?

Larry Kelley said...

You're missing the pattern. Connect the dots.

Anonymous said...

When I asked my daughter who just finished 7th grade (at ARMS) if she had heard about anyone getting beaten up, she said yes and listed 3 separate (white) 7th grade boys, beaten up on separate occasions by the same group of 8th grade boys. (I asked her if the group is mostly black and she said yes). She said one of them was beaten up for not giving his candy to the 8th graders and she did not know the reason for the other 2 beatings. I think the district has to buckle down on discipline, regardless of race.

Larry Kelley said...

Three strikes and you're out!

And that not even counting the Dylan Akalis fiasco.

Anonymous said...

4:18, I've heard things from my kids, school employees (including teachers and admins), other parents, coaches, neighbors, etc. It all depends on what it was and which school.
Sometimes it is still a small town.

Anonymous said...

I would still like to know where a number of the anon posters to this blog get their information on our schools, including details which are not at all public.

Which details have been shared here that are not at all public?

Anonymous said...

Beaten up for not giving his candy to the 8th graders? Not because they were so frustrated by the institutional racism?

Anonymous said...

Are you really comparing a middle school fist fight to phoebe Prince?

It wasn't a "middle school fistfight", it was three kids hunting down and assaulting and battering one kid. Because they were so "frustrated".

Anonymous said...

We have a race problem in Amherst: It is called black-on-white violence. And we have a conspiracy of silence by the school administration. Period.

Dr. Ed said...

The police contacted the administration and asked them about the assault and perhaps demanded to know why it had not been reported to the police in the first place

Or some cop who knows (or maybe is dating) a nurse at CDH and says something along the lines of "do you have any idea who this is so we can go offer to help him?

Anonymous said...

I think Ed has a career in the making. Fantasy writers make good money!

Dr. Ed said...

Not all cops are a-holes, some of them actually believe in the "protect and serve" thing.

It's also possible that I am not the only person thinking along the line of if this isn't stopped, soon, it is only a matter of time before some White kid has a gun and shoots back. Think that might get messy?

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Kelly is comparing the Phoebe Prince suicide to our little middle school assault by three black bullies on1 white kid.

That's what Kelly does. No, you're right. That isn't a very smart thing to do but when you need attention as badly as Kelly does you resort to petty, mean tricks.

That's his style of "news, small townie gossip.

Larry Kelley said...

It is what it is.

And it could be worse: I could adopt a Huffington Post style of news.

Anonymous said...

How do you think the Prince issue started, 9:55? Bullying!

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:05

Maybe Shabazz heard about it at one of the many sub-committee meetings. The informal the Task force holds between large meetings. Invitation only. Guess how diverse they are...or aren't.

Not necessarily a racial movie, but this quote fits the situation:

"Oh..you ain't seen trouble - but it's coming."

Patrick Swayze - Next of Kin

Anonymous said...

I wonder if these types of 3-on-1 assault incidents that we are hearing about are what is skewing the numbers around discipline disparity along racial lines in the schools, or is it because the teachers who refer kids to the administration for disciplinary action are racist, like some in our town say.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what to open meeting laws say about sub committee meetings of the task force? Are they subject to all the rules around open meetings?

Anonymous said...

Both the Equity Task Force and the ETF's working group sessions are open to all who would like to participate. No formal list of members for either the ETF or the working groups have been defined.

As indicated on the ETF web site,
(http://stair2stair.org/groups/equity-task-force-etf-amherst-regional-school-district)

three working groups have been created for the ETF:
a) Culture & Community (around School Climate issues)
b) Discipline & Development (around disparity issues)
c) Excellence & Equity (for promoting high achievement for all students)

The Discipline & Development group has now set 4 meetings for this summer. All 4 meetings will be held from 5:30-7;30 pm in the Amherst Town Hall first floor meeting room. The dates are:
July 16, July 30, August 6, & August 20

Anonymous said...

The 6/18 ETF General Meeting Minutes
Submitted by Amilcar Shabazz
showed the following members for its three working groups:
1. Culture & Community (School Climate issues) Carleen Basler Lissa Pierce Bonifaz Ruth Killough-Hill Anna Hope Rebecca Johnson Sonji Johnson-Anderson David Reffsin

2. Discipline & Development (Addressing disparity issues): Michael Burkart, Vira Cage, Mary Lou Conca, Jim Helling, Michael Mongeau, Kelly Norris, and Sarah Talbot

3. Excellence & Equity (Closing achievement gaps): Shari Abbott, Carleen Basler, Rich Cairn, Peter Demling, Becky Michaels, Susan Reddit, Michael Schurter, Russ Vernon-Jones, and Tracy Zafian

Anonymous said...

the list of working group members represents those who said that they were interesting in participating in each working group at one of the earlier Equity Task Force meeting. Some of those listed are no longer participating and others who want to participate have been added. No one who wants to participate has been excluded from doing so.

Anonymous said...

Some of those listed are no longer participating.

I can't imagine why. Do you know why, anon 5:50 PM?

Anonymous said...

anon 5:50 PM, you seem to know what's going on with the ETF: It has been stated that Shabazz told members at the task force meeting that Geryk refused to provide him with documents which she in fact did provide him with, and also that Geryk would have him arrested if he ever tried to enter the high school.

Can you deny or corroborate these statements?

If he did in fact say these things, I think it is deplorable that he is using his position as a school committee member and chair of the Equity Task Force to denigrate Superintendent Geryk and attempt to harm her reputation with lies, especially deplorable that he says these things when she is not present to respond to and correct those statements.

And I've heard that that was not the first time he's done that.

If true: weaselly.

Anonymous said...

I have heard the same Anon 623. He really needs to go.

Anonymous said...

If it's true that Shabazz said those things about the superintendent I'd like to hear how Russ Vernon-Jones would put those comments "into context" for us.

Anonymous said...

As a parent when I hear about incidents with students beating up other students, it concerns me.

It seems like it might be helpful as well as reassuring perhaps (depending on what the data show) if the district shared more information on violence in our schools: how often fights/assaults and other acts of violence (including those such as endured by Carolyn Gardner) occur, how often students/staff are injured, how often the police are called.

The numbers could be presented in aggregate to protect confidentiality. Universities such as UMass release this type of information annually, our school district could do the same. Without this type of data, parents are left to wonder, and to fear, how often incidents such as the one at the MS that just came to light take place, and how safe their children are in our schools.

Anonymous said...

Everything Anon 623 said is true. Shabazz told a number of untrue things at the meeting.

Larry Kelley said...

I love it when an Anon cites another Anon as a source.

Anonymous said...

I was not citing them as a source. I was confirming the veracity of their post.

Anonymous said...

When I say "swept under the rug" I am comparing the actions of the admin to their own written policy that calls for them to report assaults to the police. This has nothing to do with what happened at your school, my school or anywhere else.

They have a policy which Larry published. Why is it not being followed?

-- Mig

Anonymous said...

Shabazz also made untrue statements about Superintendent Geryk on behalf of Vira Douangmany, while he was speaking and campaigning for her during her run for a seat on the School Committee.

Hey, "by any means necessary", right?

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts and a question:

1) Mig is right, the three boys who terrorized and beat up the one boy should have been subject to the clear policies the school set, and we as a community need to make sure the schools either adhere to or modify the policies around these types of violent crimes, regardless of whether or not doing so will affect numbers around discipline disparity along racial lines. (I'm reminded of how Jackson stated, during a discussion around suspension and the potential elimination of it as a form of discipline, during a school committee meeting this year, that suspension is a critical tool for dealing with students who destabilize our school environment with fists or drugs.)

2) Baptiste is going to go down hard now too, what a fool.

3) Larry, your page views seem to be up about 10-15% over a year ago this time; would you be willing to tell us if this is due to interest in this story?

Larry Kelley said...

School related issues -- especially those the administration wants to keep secret -- always attract a wider readership.

Anonymous said...

Baptist is a fool. The meeting on Monday will not be an official SC meeting. Only the chair can call a meeting of the SC. So the meeting on Monday will be a gathering of folks who happen to be on the SC. Nothing more. Have fun folks. It promises to be a real circus.

Larry Kelley said...

And I bet you will be there, hiding in a corner.

Anonymous said...

I know you will be at the gathering Larry but I will not be there. There is no reason to attend. It is not an official meeting.

Anonymous said...

Baptiste called "a meeting of the SC" yet the other members of the SC (except Shabazz I'll bet) heard about it in the newspaper!