Massachusetts has laws against criminal harassment, including cyberbullying, which include electronically-communicated threats and willfully and maliciously directing electronic communications at a specific person that seriously alarm that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.
Anyone following this blog over the past few months knows that conversations with Grafton Teachers Association about their contract can become heated. I have, in the past, expressed the opinion that the School Committee’s last offer to the GTA was fair, that the GTA should accept it, and if they chose not to accept this fair offer, they always have the option of accepting employment in a community that they feel pays more fairly.
This seems like a fairly reasonable position to take. In response to this position, however, the GTA, has encouraged its supporters to engage in a mob-type mentality that has crossed the line.
Last month, in response to my suggestion that teachers unhappy with the latest offer were free to test the free market and find greener pastures, the husband of a Grafton teacher suggested that I would “regret” airing that particular opinion.
Feeling like I had nothing to regret, I continued to address the teachers’ contract issue on the Grafton News website by publishing facts concerning the latest offer.
In response to my comments, a GTA member posted a response under the handle “Edsadick.” Here’s screen shot:
The GTA continues to take the position that the 2014 Override funds were raised in support, and in anticipation of, teacher raises. This is patently untrue, and I’ve pointed this out as well. In response to the act of simply pointing out facts, the GTA obtained and posted a canvassing script that I authored, in which I acknowledged that the override would be passed in part to pay teacher salaries (of course it would – just not raises requested in the next round of negotiations).
The script, however, included my personal phone number which they not only failed to redact, they actually highlighted.
Several people on facebook pointed out that this was inappropriate, and former educator suggested that this could be construed as cyberbullying.
The school department has a policy on ethical conduct, as reflected in a memo entitled Healthy Boundaries for Educators. The memo reads, in pertinent part: “Outside School:You are a private citizen, but are always and [sic] educator. Your out of school conduct can effect your job security. The line between your public and private lives is less clear. What you post on a webpage can be accessed by students and parents/guardians. If you would not want the superintendent to read it ‘Don’t post it.'”
Doubling down on their misleading rhetoric concerning the 2014 override money, the GTA again went back to the well on this argument by re-posting the YESGrafton canvassing script, this time without my phone number, but still calling me out by name as a political opponent.
Now, mind you – I have no role in this debate as a Finance Committee member. Teacher raises are a school department issue. When I comment on the logic of the GTA’s arguments, I’m doing it as a private resident.
And the message to this private resident is “Shut up, Prisby! If you won’t stop speaking out, we’ll try and intimidate you into doing so.”
Good luck trying to intimidate me into silence. You’ve got better luck getting blood from a stone.
But, this behavior by GTA is deeply disturbing. If they cannot police the actions of their own members relative to residents and tax payers who simply disagree with them, how can you trust them to do so with our kids? What kind of judgment is this?
What’s more, while I won’t be pressing charges, these actions were clearly designed to intimidate and cause fear, even if they did not. These actions are also clearly unethical, in violation of school code. The purveyors of the GTA’s facebook page should make their identities known so that the school department can determine whether disciplinary action is warranted.
Hopefully, the fact finder is made aware of this behavior and it’s taken into account. Hopefully parents appreciate how disturbing this is.