Published On: Wed, Dec 14th, 2016

New Hope-Solebury School Board Again Delays Action over Member’s Controversial Facebook Post

School board sub-committee members (L to R) Cowell and Marcus, Superindent Yanni, and committee chair Deussing.

School board sub-committee members (L to R) Cowell and Marcus, Superintendent Yanni, and committee chair Deussing.

A committee of the New Hope-Solebury School Board decided against expanding existing school district harassment and bullying/cyberbullying policies to make them applicable to board members in a meeting Tuesday night.

“Clearly there are some holes in the policy, and the policy should apply to [school] board members. The language can be changed so it encompasses all school directors,” said incoming School Board President Neale Dougherty at a Dec. 5 meeting during which School Board Member Douglas J. McDonough came under fire for a Facebook post that some consider to have threatened violence.

But on Tuesday night, the school board’s Policy and Human Resource committee shied away from taking decisive action, with School Board Members Mark Cowell and Adrienne Deussing suggesting the subcommittee form another subcommittee to work with the board attorney on considering various options short of holding school board members to the same standards on hate speech, harassment and bullying as the students whose educational policies they oversee.

Cowell and Deussing asserted that since McDonough did not publish his remark on Facebook on behalf of the board, his post should be considered a private conversation. They and other committee members said that extending harassment and bullying policies to board members might not be enforceable under state law, particularly in circumstances where the member in question was not acting in an official capacity.

“Why not reach out to the P.A. Department of Education?” asked Cowell. “We should seek guidance from the state.”

“McDonough was turned into a human pinata,” observed committee member Stan Marcus. “You need to step back and ask if this is really such a problem.”

Explained School Superintendent Steven Yanni, “Discipline or removal typically involves a neglect of duties. Right now, there is no mechanism, there is no vehicle, there is no enforcement.”

Dougherty broached the concept of censure as a potential step. Traditionally, political organizations have resorted to censure as a way of expressing severe disapproval over a member’s actions, often in the form of a resolution.

“Censure is the culmination of a verbal or written disciplinary action,” said Dougherty.

“There is no enforcement?” exclaimed Cowell. “Won’t that infuriate the community even more?”

“The guidelines are established for everybody else except the board, so it is extremely difficult to remove a school director,” explained Dougherty. “But they should have to abide by the conduct code of the district, and there should be a path for discipline. In some way we have to set language in the policy where there’s a clear path to censure.”

Cowell and Deussing urged members to forgo further discussion of extending bullying and harassment policies to board members, and to move on to item 255, a draft policy that is gender expansive in accommodating transgender students. That policy seems fairly well developed, although Cowell suggested that it too should be delayed in case some parents might object.

In the end, despite 10 days of controversy, the New Hope-Solebury School Board and its sub-committee appeared overwhelmed and indecisive, with members failing to categorically condemn their fellow board member’s actions or offer a feasible response.

School Board President Dougherty appeared frustrated, and suggested that firmer action should be expected on Dec. 19.

 

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Displaying 7 Comments
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  1. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    Since “Concerned Parent” and Bob Gaynor seem to be very upset about the situation, they shoulbear in mind that four seats on the Board will be up athe end of Nov. 2017 with the primaries this coming May. Perhaps they can throw their hats into the ring.

  2. sacpenn@hotmail.com' NChase says:

    Really, it’s amazing that someone as apparently successful as McDonough can be such a moron. Why does he deem it necessary to broadcast ever stupid thought on social media? You’d think a grown man with a public profile would have better ways to use his time.

  3. Rcgaynor@mail.com' Bob Gaynor says:

    McDonough’s actions are deplorable. He published his hate, which would have gone unnoticed if he didn’t publish his thoughts. The thought that he represents New Hope and Solebury residents should disgust everyone. This is not the type of person I want representing me or in any way being responsible for my child’s education. He should either have the sense to resign or we residents should petition to suggest he resign. We can and must be a better community than this.

  4. Incredibly disappointing! To Stan Marcus – whoever you are – no one needed to turn that man into a human pinata, He put himself out there for legitimate criticism the moment he chose to write something on Facebook that promotes violence and hatred and intolerance. Was he hit like a pinata? Or merely criticized for comments that we would not tolerate from a student let alone a school board member. Shameful that he remains on the board. Anyone with a hint of honor and respect for others would resign to demonstrate that he understands. Clearly you nor he understand why it’s not ok to talk like that. Frightening but a sign of the times. How do people like you end up in such positions?

  5. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    If the board wants to get the best advive it needs to confer with a Constitutionla attorney preferably one from the ACLU an organization whose most prominent clent is the First Amendment.
    In additon, as I said at the meeting, the main focus of the board is to focus on actions and behaviors of our students. Those who were there saw me present 31 pages of online texts containing bullying of our students from two years ago who were called out by name, texts demeaning our students, texts that included sexually explicit statements.
    This time the person(s) responsible conveyed their feelings via the internet. There is always that possibility that going forward the person(s) can be more dangerousand violent.

  6. jcrilley3@comcast.net' JoeSchmoe says:

    I did not read this article and take away that they are agreeing with him or supporting him at all. It sounds to me they are taking measured steps to make sure they are responding properly and legally.

  7. ian.kelly@me.com' Ian Kelly says:

    Why is it so hard for these folks to condemn his actions. Clearly irresponsible. Clearly unacceptable for an adult, let alone a man of his influence. Clearly the board must agree with him and support him and his position. That’s the message they are sending our children and us. If this man takes this seriously I wish he would show us by stepping down and getting some help. Violent rhetoric has no place in our community let alone school system.

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