Bynum: I did not ‘accuse’ a school instructor
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.