Late yesterday afternoon, Howard County Times released Blair Ames' piece about the Board of Education. Please read it. Read it online, don't wait for a print version because the print version is heavily edited and is therefore less informative. In fact--read it now. I'll wait.
Okay, now let me ask you a question. Did you know they were carding young people who wanted to buy condoms at the Hickory Ridge Giant? You might know because Board Member Cynthia Vaillancourt was so concerned about the public health implications of this for our young people that she got involved to do something about it. And I wrote about it on my blog on September 6th. (Read that, too. Thanks.)
The issues of safe sex, condoms as barrier protection, and overall sexual health are a part of the Howard County curriculum from eighth grade onward. They are considered an important part of the education of our young people. These are public health issues. They are printed publicly on the hcpss website, along with all the other subject areas.
But now the Board of Education now wants you to believe that a few sentences about this topic constitutes sexual harassment. And that's all it was. A few sentences, in a general conversation, to a mixed group of adults and high school students. Merely the word "condom" in the context of the story above, is so nasty, so graphic, that Ms. Vaillancourt must be publicly condemned.
I spent yesterday looking up definitions of sexual harassment. This is not it.
Though the "incident" took place in July, for some reason the Board waited until Tuesday to make a public resolution about it. Do you think it might have anything to do with the election?
Please remember: if Cindy Vaillancourt, or any member of the Board, had done something legitimately wrong, the Board would be obligated to follow specific legal procedures to address this. And the procedures would most assuredly involve things like due process. There would be an investigation, and lawyers on both sides. There would be press coverage and a good deal of public scrutiny.
A resolution of "disappointment"? An accusation where the Board refuses to let Ms. Vaillancourt even see the complaint made against her? These actions speak volumes.
Is this why we elect members of the Board of Ed? How very important it must be to suppress independent voices on the Board, that they are wasting valuable time when they could be doing their jobs. Their real jobs.
One more thing. I don't usually recommend reading online comments, but I did find this interesting. From the article:
French said she recused herself after learning of "rumblings" via email and social media that she was behind the resolution to improve her election chances. In the June primary, French finished second to Vaillancourt with 14,528 votes. Vaillancourt received 15,646 votes.
"I felt it was better to remain neutral," French said.
In the comments section, a reader who has watched the videotape of the meeting states:
Go to the HCPSS website and watch the Sep 23 BOE meeting. Go to Approval of Agenda when the resolution is added and watch French when she says she has not seen this and usually the BOE gets more than 1 days notice. French is advised by Giles to recuse herself and does.
I haven't watched the meeting yet. But it would seem that Ms. French is contradicting herself. I'd love to learn more about that. It's troubling.
This is disheartening. Our children and our teachers deserve better. Our community deserves better. The only good thing I can think of at this moment is that we have the power to make it better.