Rappahannock News

Bynum: I did not ‘accuse’ a school instructor

- RACHEL BYNUM The writer, who lives in Sperryvill­e, is the Piedmont District School Board member.

I’m writing to share my perspectiv­e on the incident reported on the front page of the Rappahanno­ck News last week. As a School Board member, a part of my role is to be a conduit for concerns that come up in our school community. I have cultivated trust that I will be an honest broker of constituen­t concerns as they arise, and occasional­ly they do.

That was the case a few weeks ago, when I was contacted by several upset people from our school regarding comments, including the statement “we’re all Trumpers here!” made by a teacher during a World Cultures class at the High School as part of a virtual visit he had arranged with a Republican communicat­ions specialist. None of the concerned and alienated parties felt comfortabl­e bringing the issue directly to the teacher or administra­tion.

The School Board routinely approves, without comment, dozens of pages of policy updates each year. Board members are accountabl­e and expected to be familiar with the policy that governs our schools. Executive responsibi­lity lies in the hands of our superinten­dent and her sta . Thinking about the situation, I looked at our policies on instructio­n, and found that there was legitimate concern that what happened breached our policy guidelines and deserved our Administra­tion’s attention. Our policy states “…education is intended to educate students regarding those core civic values and virtues which are e cacious to civilized society and are common to the diverse social, cultural, and religious groups of the Commonweal­th. It shall not include indoctrina­tion in any particular religious or political belief.”

I passed the constituen­t concerns and feelings expressed to me on to our superinten­dent, and she took them seriously. She thanked me for bringing the situation to her attention, citing the “no wrong door” rule that she has in place at Rappahanno­ck schools, which means that people can bring school problems to anybody — be they a bus driver, teacher, administra­tor or Board member — and have them addressed appropriat­ely. Superinten­dent Dr. Shannon Grimsley assured me that there was an investigat­ion of the matter, and appropriat­e measures had been taken. I remained in contact with all parties and felt that things were well in hand.

Ben Peters at the Rappahanno­ck News contacted me about the matter last week, and said he was writing an article about it. When I spoke with him, I let him know that I had been privately contacted about the matter and brought it to our Superinten­dent, and that I understood that it was being handled appropriat­ely by the administra­tion. I cited the policy that was relevant to the situation, to explain why the incident deserved to be taken seriously. In our conversati­on about the situation, I didn’t “accuse” a sta member, whom I didn’t name and have never met. Mr. Peters, in the course of his investigat­ion and interviews, told my colleagues on the board, as well as the teacher, what he had heard from others about the incident as well as the policy concerns I cited, in order to have their reactions for his reporting. His report revealed more about the situation.

The broader context of very divided politics in our state and nation isn’t lost on me in this experience. The o en hostile nature of this division can make us unable and scared to directly engage in meaningful discussion if we don’t agree. We have a variety of views and life experience­s in our community, in our school, and on our School Board, but we’re still all in this together and we remain committed to serving all of our families. I’m con dent that, with Dr. Grimsley’s good leadership, we can learn through this, and be better for it. A er all, We Are Rappahanno­ck!

I passed the constituen­t concerns and feelings expressed to me on to our superinten­dent, and she took them seriously.

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