BELLOWS FALLS — The school nurse at Bellows Falls Union High School demanded Monday night that a member of the BFUHS school board from Rockingham resign because of a bullying incident at the high school last month.
Nurse Rebecca Stockwell lodged the complaint against Director Jason Terry during a Rockingham School Board meeting. Terry, a Bellows Falls resident, is also a member of the Rockingham board.
Stockwell said that Terry, who was elected to the BFUHS board last month, violated numerous local and state school board ethics policies over bullying and harassment during an incident at the high school last month. She said Terry threatened school officials with the loss of their jobs and physical harm, and that the incident was witnessed by numerous students and school faculty.
Stockwell told the Rockingham board that while she did not witness Terry’s remarks, she did see the effect his comments had on students and staff. She said they were “distressed and traumatized.”
“They have no place in Vermont schools,” Stockwell said, via Zoom, referring to Terry’s actions. “Some of them felt unsafe,” she said, referring to “violence in schools” in recent years. She said she felt it was her duty as the school nurse to speak up.
She said that Terry was “belligerent and threatening people,” and said, “’I’ll have all your jobs,’” and “’I’m going to hang you!’”
She said it was the second time this year that Terry had threatened staff, since he had directly sent a threatening email to the nursing staff, rather than take his concerns to the school administration.
The most recent incident, several sources said and confirmed by BFUHS Chairwoman Molly Banik, stemmed from a school decision that Terry’s son had to quarantine after he violated state COVID-19 protocols, and would be banned from the school building.
Banik said that Terry’s son and his family knew he traveled beyond the five-mile buffer allowed in New Hampshire, in order to play in a basketball game, which was a violation of state COVID-19 protocols. She said when he finally told school officials about his travel, the quarantine was imposed.
“They knew he wasn’t supposed to be traveling beyond five miles,” she said, referring to Jason Terry.
As a result, the son was unable to take the upcoming SAT tests, she said, because he wasn’t allowed in the building. “You can’t Zoom an SAT test,” she said.
BFUHS Principal Christopher Hodsden, who was not at the Monday night meeting, said in an email Tuesday morning that Terry was “very hostile, angry, loud and confrontational.”
“Recently, Mr. Terry came to the high school on a topic related to the school’s implementation of some very standard COVID-19 safety rules and expectations. In doing so, he conducted himself in a very hostile, angry, loud, and confrontational way, both in the main office and hallway area and out in front of the school,” Hodsden wrote.
‘I did not witness personally all of these interactions nor did I hear everything that he said. However, if some people felt threatened by the way that he conducted himself, conduct which was witnessed by many staff members and students, that would not surprise me,” Hodsden said.
“He did not use words toward me that I considered threatening despite the overall angry and hostile tone and volume that he used. However, I have developed, from a very young age, the ability to not let bullying conduct leave me feeling threatened. Not all people deal the same way with bullying behavior,” Hodsden wrote.
“It does concern me that a school board member would take such a position when schools are applying COVID-19 safety rules and expectations for the safety and well being of all school community members,” Hodsden wrote.
Superintendent Christopher Pratt said he did not witness the incident, and declined to comment on whether Terry should resign.
“In the general sense of threats and bullying, I can tell you that if a faculty, staff, or administrator for the school system acted in a manner that was found to be unprofessional, threatening, bullying behavior, they would be held accountable for their actions that could result in being dismissed from their position,” Pratt responded in an email Tuesday.
“Also, students, who violate our policies are held accountable, this is why all schools are mandated by law to have a harassment, bullying, and hazing policy, as well as policy and procedures on how to deal with threats,” he said.
“In WNESU, we work extremely hard to educate and prevent threatening, bullying behavior in our schools and do what we can to take a pro-active approach to work with students and adults. We don’t expect anything less from visitors to our schools,” he said.
“As superintendent, I expect that myself, teachers, faculty, staff, and administration all lead by example and hold people accountable for their actions when these policies are violated,” he said.
Terry said he was hoping to sit down with Pratt and Molly Banik, the chairwoman of the Bellows Falls Union board, and unnamed others, to discuss the incident.
“Until we’ve had that discussion I don’t have anything useful to add,” he wrote in an email.
“But if the three of us haven’t come to a successful resolution of the issues I will have quite a bit to say about it at MONDAY NIGHT’S high school board meeting,” he wrote on Tuesday.
Stockwell’s comments came at the beginning of the meeting under ‘public comment.’
As a result, Chairman George Smith said, the board could not comment at that time. And during a lengthy meeting that dealt mostly with how fast school could return to normal in Rockingham, nothing was said about the incident until the very end of the meeting.
Only then did Terry speak, when he said: “Don’t believe everything you hear. There’s always a story behind the story.”
Fellow Rockingham School Director Jason Benson said it was “dumb” that Stockwell had lodged her complaint at the Rockingham board meeting, inferring the proper place would be the BFUHS board.
Banik said the issue will be discussed behind closed doors Monday night, and if the board takes any action that would be taken in open session. She said that Terry had come to her and “told me his side.”
She said the board cannot remove a board member, but they can take other action, such as a censure, for violating board policies. “I don’t know what the board is going to do,” she said.
“I believe there’s a lot more to it than has come out publicly,” she said.
Published at Wed, 07 Apr 2021 16:30:00 +0000