What Just Happened?


Updated 3:35 PM, 10-27-21. Earlier versions of this post had innaccurate transcription of some words and phrases, including "shut up," which a closer examination of the recording reveals to have been misheard.

Above, Angela Spring asks "what is a protected student?"
There was supposed to be a regular School Committee Meeting Tuesday evening, but it didn’t turn out quite that way. Instead there was a lengthy public comment segment followed by a report from the Committee’s high school representatives that devolved into shouts, screams and tears and ended with a temporary adjournment. Some minutes later the meeting resumed as per normal. And at the very end things turned sentimental and a bit maudlin as “retiring” Committee members bid farewell and got their well-deserved accolades.

Part 1

A large contingent of parents and citizens turned out for the Citizen Comment part of the meeting, each with a comment or concern. The first up was Angela Spring: I would like some clarification and a clear definition on who is considered a protected student in the Franklin School District. Who is in this category? Who decides who is in this category? What prompted this question is a statement that was made in my daughter's class a couple of weeks back, a male student came back from the bathroom and relate to the entire class and the teacher that there was a female crying in the bathroom. The teacher was quick to respond and said actually, it is a male student crying and I hope that you did not say anything to this student because they are a protected student. He said no I didn't. I just saw that she was crying. The teacher continued and said that it was not a female crying but a male student and hope that they were not bullied because they are a protected student. And anyone that bothers or bullied, this student would face severe punishment because they are in that category. So, my daughter asked who's protected who is not how are they protected?” Spring noted that she had asked the question of the Principal but felt the answer was unsatisfying and hoped the School Committee would be able to clarify for her.

Mike Videira came next, identifying himself as the husband of School Committee candidate Dashe Videira. He explained that key parts of her written statement to last week’s candidate’s night had been omitted, namely the quotes from “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, a book used as a text in some high school classes. Videira read a passage which described in details lurid enough to impress Potter Stewart, the internal mental processes of a sexually conflicted man who decides to rape little girls. “They were usually manageable, and frequently seductive,” the passage concluded.

Videira asked rhetorically,” does anybody here support this type of language? I don't see anybody raising their hands. And I think that's a big problem. I think parents have a right to determine when and if their children are subjected to this type of language.”

The next 15 minutes or so brought more citizen comments. Linda LeBlanc from Skyline drive also brought a book that she said was in the high school library, in print and audio forms, and included a graphic description of the rape of an 11-year-old girl by her father as well as lengthy discussions of premarital sexual relations. “They go into detail of rape, pedophilia, and bestiality; if you made this book verbatim into a movie, no one under the age of 18 would be allowed to see it,” said LeBlanc. She, too, challenged the audience: “Why does an English teacher, librarian, Director of Curriculum or the superintendent allow high school children to read this,” she asked?

Bryna Morehouse, from October Drive started on a positive note, telling the chair, Dr. Bergen, “”I know you have a good heart.” Then she recapped her multi-year effort to get children more time for lunch and recess – asserting that no other town in the area has such brief time slots for these important activities. She also complained about a fourth grade “puberty talk” that actually is a detailed sex ed program. Finally, she asserted that a book “The Hate You Give”—intended for teenage readers -- is being assigned to fifth graders in Franklin, despite graphic sexual language and descriptions of drug use. Addressing parents, she said, “You need to speak up about these books and these things that are inappropriate in this town have got to stop,” she said.

Megan Benson from Winthrop Drive, Kevin Dickerson from Miller Street, and Jackie Maciel closed out comments; Benson revisiting the lack of leadership on masking from the Committee, Dickerson expressed concern that mandatory vaccines will be imposed on even young children in the new year, despite a large body of evidence regarding bad reactions and deaths, and Maciel made multiple points, decrying indoctrination and lack of democratic processes in the school.

With that, Dr. Bergen turned attention to the high school representatives. first Mackenzie Atwood, the treasurer of the class of 2022 and also part of the theatre company at the school. She provided updates on the recent prom and on the upcoming musical, Mamma Mia as well as a `trunk or treat’ event this Friday, from 4-7 pm. She went on to discuss several other matters including National Honor Society, AP exams, etc. and then began to refer to the topics raised in Citizens Comments.

“On the topic of masks, I know some friends from Medway high school who they recently reached the 80% vaccination marks and the high school had personally decided that they would not allow masks to be optional until they received 50% of students to sign up for regular testing at the school. So, I just wanted to mention that what surrounding towns were doing just because I think that might be something interesting to consider...

Then she noted that “seniors are starting to feel a lot of stress coming back to school for their first kind of semi normal school year since technically, freshman year was our only normal year of school.”

“So, I just wanted to make a comment...teachers have been enforcing masks like very heavily, although lots of students are not really listening...we've just heard about, even though students who are fully vaccinated, they will still be respecting the mask mandate and wearing them above their nose the proper way all day.”

“I think it's important that we all are very considerate of the people around us and the choices that everyone makes, because whether or not you believe that masks work, or believe that the vaccine is, you know, useful or it works at all, I think it's important to just consider the well-being and safety of others because though the statistics of people dying from vaccines might be very shocking and horrifying, that I think the statistics of people dying from COVID-19 are a bit more horrifying. I wanted to share that."

After a short interlude when Shaw spoke about the junior class, Atwood resumed her remarks.

Atwood: Is it okay if I say something? I don't know if some of you remember but last time I was here representing the high school for the school committee. I spoke something that I wrote about the so-called classes that are protected in the school such as homosexuals, transgender people and minority groups, and I just want to share I know it's not appropriate that the school committee responds to community citizen comments, but is it okay if I do?”

Dr. Bergin: “Go ahead.”

Atwood: Um, I think what should be known is that at the high school level, we have meetings every, at the beginning of every school year outlining what protected classes are in the school. That protected classes was what they're called. And it basically engulfs everybody. So, everyone is protected by the school, no matter what your race is, no matter what your gender is, no matter what your gender identity is, to be specific, and no matter what your sexuality is, religion, everyone is protected. And we know that because we're in the United States of America. Everyone is protected, though it's not. Um, what's, what is not clear about school environment is that though everyone is said to be protected, that is not followed through. So, kids every single day, and being in theater, there's obviously that stereotype that everyone in theater is gay. And yet, you can say that it's pretty true because a lot of us are gay, and it's somewhere where we can be comfortable. And that's a safe space. But when kids are coming to theater every single day, telling me oh, I got called a faggot in the hall today. Or I got called a racial slur in the hall today. That's not something to you know, joke about, though. It's become something that we're so numb to that it becomes a joke. So, I think it's important to understand that yes, everyone is protected at the school. But being someone who is Caucasian is not something that you're getting bullied about.

Voice from back of room:“nope, nope...OW”

Bergen: Keep going please.

Atwood: Being homosexual, which may I say I am gay. Tell me what you want about that, I am being personally attacked in school about this [more voices from elsewhere in the room] “It’s disgusting that you can look me in the eye and say I am not being oppressed, at the school. {more voices]

Bergen [to the speaker at the back of the room]: Please sit down or you will be asked to leave.

More Voices: “This has to stop, this is the indoctrination.”

Bergen: We will ask for a short adjournment

Atwood: There is no such thing as a gay agenda.

After summoning the police, the meeting resumed several minutes later.
Watch for reportage on the rest of the meeting tomorrow – or watch the meeting on Youtube.

Below, Mackenzie Atwood and Shaw Downing at the moment the meeting was recessed.

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