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.
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.