The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 26, 1999

Has confidence in administration

To the Editor:

I'm writing in response to the letter from Margo Seltzer that appeared in the Mosquito on November 19. That letter paints the picture that 1) sexual harassment occurred in our school, 2) the administration did little about it, and 3) everyone should work together to make sure it never happens again.

I disagree with that picture because it is based on a fundamental fact that has not been established.

The fundamental fact, of course, is whether any sexual harassment or improper behavior occurred in the first place. I acknowledge that I have not spoken to any of the parties, and have no firsthand knowledge about what occurred or didn't occur. However, I do have confidence in our school administrators to investigate an allegation and take appropriate action if warranted by the findings. After all, they are in the best position to determine the facts; they not only have access to the parties, but also to other teachers and children who are familiar with the surroundings. Further, I understand that town, state and federal agencies were involved, and no smoke or fire was found. I am completely satisfied that the investigation was comprehensive and, if action was warranted, our administrators would have taken the proper steps.

In summary, I have confidence in our teachers and confidence in our school administrators to deal with harassment if it occurs. Let's move on.

William Clark
Carlisle Pines Drive

Praise for student and teacher

To the Editor:

I am writing in regard to recent articles concerning sexual harassment in the Carlisle Public Schools. I write to express my sincere admiration for a student who was brave enough to stand up for what she believed to be unjust and for the instructor who stood with her throughout this incredibly difficult time.

Last fall, a student expressed concerns about her "negative" experiences at school. She sought advice and refuge from an adult she trusted. Together they sought guidance from the school. She followed the teaching of the social competency curriculum; she used her words, confronted a problem, and asked an adult she trusted for help.

Sexual harassment, under Title 9, provides a Title 9 coordinator to protect the confidentiality of the complainant and the accused, yet a lawsuit was filed against the school which included a complaint of retaliation. Retaliation? Against a student who voiced concerns about a situation? Toward the instructor who protected her? What happened?

The Office of Civil Rights closed their investigation finding insufficient evidence of retaliation. However, they did find the actions of the administration adverse to the teacher, the same teacher who stood beside a student who asked for help. I ask myself, "Is adverse a synonym for civility?" To have civility permeate a school's culture, whereby students, school staff, and parents embrace civility, you must model what you teach. Should the school leaders model adversity or civility?

I want Mari Jo [Alberico, the student] to know that I am proud of her and stand in awe because she had the courage and determination to stand up for her rights. She led the school toward implementing a new sexual harassment policy and training for all school employees. This policy will protect children and adults from sexual harassment.

I stand in awe of the instructor who stood by Mari Jo and advocated for the rights of a student. I cannot accurately express the magnitude of your actions. You are a true teacher and leader. Your actions demonstrate to all other children that you care, they count, and you won't give up on them.

Steve Greene
Forest Park Drive

School committee responds

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Carlisle School Committee, I am writing in response to the issues raised in the letters to the editor which have appeared over the last few weeks. Rest assured, the Carlisle School administration, faculty and school committee rank student safety and well-being as their highest priorities. We have always had policies in place for responding to any issue regarding student welfare and have carried out these policies, including in this instance.

All school policies are reviewed periodically to ensure that they are still adequate to keep up with modern times and comply with state and federal guidelines. Carlisle's policy concerning student harassment was already under review last year prior to the events referenced in the letters. The school committee has found no fault with past actions by the school administration or faculty in this area. Indeed, we have found the administration and faculty receptive to individual student needs, and creative in finding ways to meet those needs.

The allegations raised were also investigated by the Federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR), an independent body whose purpose is to ensure that proper actions are taken both to protect the safety of children and to prevent retaliation against any individuals who make allegations. To the extent of its investigation, the OCR found no evidence of misconduct by any teachers or by the school administration. It is our understanding that the investigation by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has been halted.

I want to assure the community that the members of the school committee, all of whom are parents of Carlisle students, have student welfare as a top priority. We also have an incredibly committed administration and faculty that have made Carlisle Schools the envy of the state. Their highest priority is to create a secure and caring learning environment for each and every child. The school welcomes parents as partners in this effort and stands by its efforts to date.

Thank you,
David Dockterman, Chair
Carlisle School Committee

Teachers respond

To the Editor:

We, the faculty and staff at Carlisle Public School, are proud and dedicated educators. We read with dismay Margo Seltzer's letter in last week's Mosquito. We unequivocally believe that our school is a safe haven for Carlisle's children. It is a place where high academic expectations for staff and students are coupled with a deep commitment to the nurturing of every student placed in our charge. Many of us wish all students could attend a school like Carlisle's.

Our reputation matters to us. We care deeply about how we are perceived in the community. We have relied upon and appreciated the trust of the community. The foundation of our school's success is built upon this long-standing, mutual trust. As teachers, we collaborate to create a curriculum and a learning environment that bring out the best in students and teachers alike. Year after year, veteran educators pass on this culture of excellence to newer teachers; one would be hard-pressed to find a public school faculty that takes more pride in its mission and achievements.

The responsibility of The Carlisle Teachers Association has been to safeguard the rights of teachers involved in this case. We believe many have been adversely affected by the case, among them two Carlisle teachers. One was the subject of an accusation of sexual harassment. Unlike Ms. Seltzer, we do not accept an accusation as fact. A second teacher felt subjected to retaliation for taking action in the case. The Carlisle Teachers Association provided advice and support to both individuals.

After an investigation, the Federal Office for Civil Rights found insufficient evidence of retaliation. The charge of sexual harassment filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination was withdrawn. The Carlisle School Committee will issue a statement about its actions in this case. It should also be noted that we have had a sexual harassment policy in place for many years.

We would like to put this matter behind us and focus our energies on what we do best - educating the children of Carlisle.

David Mayall, President
Carlisle Teachers Association

Enough is enough

To the Editor:

I am dismayed to read the ongoing rhetoric in the aftermath of the case of alleged sexual harassment in the Carlisle Schools.

One of the things I used to say to the parents of my students was that, "I will believe only half of what your children say about you if you will believe only half of what they say about me." As a teacher for 10 years, a coach for 15 years and a Carlisle School Committee member for six years, I have heard myriad stories. During that time I witnessed many incidents of students, parents and teachers making exaggerated claims based on emotion rather than fact. If one spends any time around education, one knows of documented cases of students making claims against teachers for inappropriate behavior, only to find that the student was retaliating against the teacher for any of a variety of reasons. The reasons can be as simple as frustration over poor grades on a test, or as complicated as emotional struggles at home. Examples abound.

In cases of interpersonal behavior, I have observed that there are two sides to every story. Since the Office of Civil Rights ruled that the school acted appropriately, and since the case against the teacher has been withdrawn from the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination, we might consider that this may truly be a case of there being another side to the story.

Furthermore, since we in the general public do not know what happened, it might be prudent to end public speculation, which is damaging to the individual and the school and could be construed as slanderous. Enough is enough. It is time to let it rest.

Tim Morse
Rutland Street

Three cheers for travel soccer

To the Editor:

The article in last week's Mosquito about the importance of athletics for girls finally persuaded me to correct what I thought was an unfair assumption in an editorial that appeared a little over a month ago in this paper. [Mosquito,October 15] While I agree with the basic point made in that editorial that children are sometimes overscheduled at an early age, I wholeheartedly disagree with the editor's picking on the travel soccer program as an example of what's wrong with this picture.

My daughter has been involved in the travel soccer program for the past four years, and I cannot even begin to count the benefits she has reaped from the program. I have witnessed her grow in strength, skills, confidence, self-knowledge and self-esteem. Perhaps involvement in any program which requires a commitment of three days a week would have produced the same results, but the Concord-Carlisle girls travel soccer program, through what I would call enlightened, inclusive and sympathetic leadership, particularly encourages these benefits. We're especially fortunate that at the helm of the Concord-Carlisle girls travel program is Don Hawley, someone who is led by the same principles current research supports for the empowerment and advancement of girls.

Yes, my daughter started in third grade, but at that age she, like most girls that age, was developmentally ready to take on more responsibility on an all-girls team. After one season, she was able to decide for herself the limits she needed to set on her schedule, and she opted to keep up with soccer. I also credit her involvement with the program with easing the transition when we moved to Carlisle. It's a commitment that I foresee will serve her well her whole life.

Phyllis Zinicola
Sunset Road

Town party planned

To the Editor:

I am planning the Town's first holiday party to be held December 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Union Hall. It is going to be simple and fun!

Santa will be there to hear your child's wish list. Please feel free to bring your camera. There will be holiday songs being played on the piano and all are welcome to to join in the singing.

The purpose of the party is just to mingle with neighbors and enjoy the excitement of the children. All are welcome, young and old, with or without children.

All I ask of you is to bring a wrapped (or unwrapped) gift that will be donated to a child in need of some holiday cheer. Please come and enjoy the evening and do something that will make a difference to a child.

I welcome all donations of juices, cookies and baked goodies. There will be tables set up for the children to enjoy a little tasty treat.

Call me at 369-6909 with ideas or if you would like to help!

Sam Coursey
Westford Street

Performance was a gift

To the Editor:

I recently had the pleasure of attending another performance by the Savoyard Light Opera Company. I guess, when people hear the word "opera," they just think to themselves, "Oh, how boring to sit and listen to high-pitched solo singers!" But, it's not that at all. As a matter of fact, this past performance was so beautifully humorous that everyone leaving the theater was so lightheartedly lifted with joy, that none could get the smiles off their faces!

For all those who have never attended any of the shows, I feel they've really missed out because you leave the show feeling like you have a little secret and the secret is that every year during the month of November, in a little town called Carlisle, people with God-given talents come and share their talents with the public. Many people from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, etc. giving of themselves to the people and giving the feeling of full contentment, of being entertained.

After the show, all the performers depart to wherever they come from, back to their own personal lives, never knowing if they'll ever meet one another again, but so grateful for the precious moments they've shared with one another in bringing such great entertainment to all. God bless them.

Norma Urban
Nashua, New Hampshire

What did our ancestors know?

To the Editor:

I am astonished that I have yet to find the word "unbuildable" in all the words that have been written about the Conant Land. If one walks the land or looks at a map (see the contour map in the Mosquito of October 29 or the Trails of Carlisle booklet), one sees only low rocky hills or wetlands. One needs to be a visionary to imagine a practical building site. It may be significant that nothing was built on the Conant Land for several hundred years. Perhaps our forebears had a secret.

Fred Churchill
Acton Street

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito