Written on Feb 16, 2011 | by Imogen Fahey
Lennox teachers union President Julie Smith is distancing the union from some comments made to the Lennox school board last month by a gay middle school teacher who says the district isn’t doing enough to discourage discrimination against gay teachers and students. (Click here to read the story.)
That teacher, Robert Collins, and a handful of other teachers (including Smith) spoke to the school board on Jan. 25 to express their concerns. In his comments, Collins made a pointed reference to Lennox Middle School Principal Debbie Johnson, whom he called “hostile.”
“Although LTA supports Mr. Collin’s and all teachers’ and students’ rights to an environment free of verbal abuse or bullying for any reason, there was no intent on behalf of the Association to speak to any specific case,” Smith wrote in a letter to the Daily Breeze. ”Therefore, any comments made about specific situations or persons were inappropriate and not endorsed by the Association. Mr. Collins spoke on his own behalf when he made such comments.”
Smith also noted that 30 of Lennox Middle School’s 45 teachers attended the subsequent school board meeting on Feb. 8 to demonstrate their support of the school’s leadership.
At the Jan. 25 meeting, another union representative, Tamara Premsriath, co- human rights chair of the Lennox teachers union, sought to make a provocative point by using racial slurs when addressing the school board. In her letter, Smith said Premsriath attended the Feb. 8 meeting, where she “read a prepared speech saying how sorry she was to have offended any by calling board members and members of the superintendent’s cabinet inappropriate names, even if to make a point.”
The teachers’ presentation at the Jan. 25 meeting is viewable on the Youtube videos posted with the story. Premsriath is the first speaker, followed by Collins and a handful of other teachers. Smith is the last speaker.)
Here is the entire letter.
A recent article about the Lennox School District, “Gay Lennox teacher blasts school bullying,” By Rob Kuznia Staff Writer, January 29, 2011, contained information that is misleading. The Lennox Teachers Association (LTA) Rep Council and Executive Board wish to clarify some misconceptions about their position as a result of your article, about the presentation at the January 25, 2011 Lennox School District Board of Trustees meeting. The person focused on by the article, Mr. Robert Collins, made several comments reflecting his personal opinions about the Lennox School District, and some of their employees. These are not necessarily the expressed opinion nor the message approved by me, the LTA President, our Representative Council and members of the LTA Executive Board. Comments regarding Ms. Debbie Johnson, Principal of Lennox Middle School are among these. Although LTA supports Mr. Collin’s and all teachers’ and students’ rights to an environment free of verbal abuse or bullying for any reason, there was no intent on behalf of the Association to speak to any specific case. Therefore, any comments made about specific situations or persons were inappropriate and not endorsed by the Association. Mr. Collins spoke on his own behalf when he made such comments. Additionally, generalizations made about entire schools or our district are also unfair, counterproductive and not endorsed by the Association. We really like our district, and happy with its many accomplishments! In this article, Judy Chaisson of GLIDE was quoted as saying, “Lennox was wonderful,” she said. “They wanted to promote a school environment where people felt safe and respected. This really reflects the leadership. … The way to judge the school is not what happened, but how they respond to it.” That is a very telling statement about our district. Improving campus safety is always a work in progress. Is there room to improve? Certainly. But at a subsequent Board meeting (February 8, 2011) several Lennox Middle School teachers attended and reported to the Board that they are very happy with the leadership and school environment. Thirty of forty five teachers attended that evening meeting to show their support. The first speaker from the January 25th presentation also read a prepared speech saying how sorry she was to have offended any by calling board members and members of the superintendent’s cabinet inappropriate names, even if to make a point. Therefore, the LTA wishes to apologize to anyone who was unintentionally hurt or offended by this presentation, and regrets any harm done by it and this article. We would greatly appreciate it if you would publish this letter and post it to the blog. Thank you.
Julie Smith – President Lennox Teachers Association