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New Hope-Solebury School Board Hopes to Move Past Facebook Controversy at Monday Night Meeting

Not amused: School Board President Neale Dougherty at Dec. 13 subcommittee meeting.

Not amused: School Board President Neale Dougherty at Dec. 13 subcommittee meeting.

The New Hope-Solebury School Board, eager to move past public outrage over a controversial Facebook post by member Douglas J. McDonough, may act quickly Monday evening to demonstrate its disapproval of his actions in order to finally put to rest a crisis that has simmered for weeks.

According to its published meeting agenda, the group will move into executive session even before a reading of the Pledge of Allegiance, and all evidence available points to a belated, but definitive, reprimand by the board that has thus far eluded consensus.

Douglas J. McDonough apologized at the beginning of a roller coaster public meeting Dec. 5 for a Facebook post which drew the ire of local residents. But that apology did not effectively quell the anger of many in attendance, who have continued to call for his resignation.

Board Member Kevin McDonough talking with students after Dec. 5 meeting.

Board Member Douglas J. McDonough talking with students after Dec. 5 meeting.

At a school board subcommittee meeting Dec. 13, one possible response, expansion of existing school district harassment and bullying/cyberbullying policies to make them applicable to board members, was effectively derailed.

But School Board President Neale Dougherty elaborated on the option of public censure as a potential step toward resolution of the conflict. 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 at the Dec. 13 meeting.

“[Board members] 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.”

Based on public statements, social media posts, and interviews, the community is divided on what further action may be warranted by the situation, with some viewing the post as hate speech which must be decisively nipped in the bud, and others advocating forgiveness.

“Let’s show our acceptance not by counter-bullying but rather by showing our children and our community that we are capable of forgiving and rebuilding,” advocated New Hope parent and expert baker Iris Lauber. “Each and every one of us has made a poor choice at one time or another. It is not fair to allow one poor choice to define a person.”

Trauma nurse Judy Finn, another local parent with children in the school system, had a different take.

“A safety pin may be a small, passive statement, but why is that less important to the recipient of that message?” she asked.  “McDonough may have intended to say ‘let’s be more proactive, people,’ but he didn’t. He used a pejorative to insult people with good intentions, and used a public platform to belittle the minority.

“Are officers of the board, school officials and teachers held to a higher standard? Yes. Should he resign? That’s up to him. But should he have an active role in the development of my children, who I’ve spent the last 17 years teaching the role of tolerance, appreciation of diversity and to look out for the little guy? No.

“And I resent being called a slacktavist jackass,” she added.

The New Hope Solebury School board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday evening in the Large Group Instruction Room of the Upper Elementary School.

About the author

Charlie Sahner

“Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein


  • The man made a dumb mistake. However, free speech is protected by the constitution. If you don’t like what he said, vote him out of office.Let’s move on and concentrate on important issues like getting the district’s finances in order, so our taxes are not raised year after year.

  • For those who say that Mr. McDonough’s posting constitutes hate speech, the burden is on these people to prove it. In fact, even if a student or a staff member put such a posting on the web, the fact is the burden would be on the school district to prove the posting constituted hate speech. Tne teacher would have his union to defend him, while the student woold get the ACLU to defend him.

  • I’d like to know which faces Mr. McDonough would save from being punched in the face and exactly what faces are the ones he thinks deserves to be punched in the face? Please be specific.

  • TrueAmericanPatriot is not. More “cool-aide drinking” nonsense. I SAID that this is a First Amendment issue. Short of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater an American patriot should know that you can say whatever idiotic thing you want. The board is acting responsibly and within the law. Youngsters speaking in public may be “brave” but it should be noted that they are minors and no doubt are influenced by what they hear at home. The First Amendment is our greatest treasure as the United States of America. Sad that it’s no longer taught or honored in our schools in a proper manner and only politically correct fads of the moment are respected. Leave the man alone! He can be a fool if he wishes… He’s protected under the law,! So… WHO voted for him????

  • @Judy Williamson – Hate Speech and Bullying is not protected in the school district. In fact there are policies with consequences for students and staff. This is not a left leaning issue. Are you suggesting that all right leaning people don’t want to have good examples for their children on the school board? Free Speech is an American Right, but so is the ability to disagree with it. Parents and taxpayers have a right to expect a reasonable standard of behavior in elected officials who manage the PUBLICLY funded organization that educates their children. At at minimum, this should align with the policies that govern 99% of the organization they are stewarding.

  • So sorry that our fine school district is once again embroiled in A conflict such as this. It hurts more than it helps. Mssers Cowell and Duessing are on the right track. No matter the content, there is a first amendment issue here! Mr. McDonough can say whatever he wants. Others have the right to agree or not. Liberals and left leaning people need to respect his right to free speech as theirs is respected.Why do they forget that and insist “their way or the highway?”

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