HOPKINTON — Over the past six months, local Republicans have slammed the Chariho School Board, Chair Linda Lyall and Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard over allegations they restricted public comment and took steps to prevent non-parents to have their say. on neighborhood affairs.
When Hopkinton City Council members Michael Geary and Scott Bill Hirst, both Republicans, asked the council to send a letter condemning a recent change to the committee’s policy on library materials, the request instead was met with frustration by Board Chairman Stephen Moffitt Jr. and Vice President Sharon Davis, who criticized efforts to reprimand school officials and called the Republican complaints exaggerated, inaccurate and of “purely political”.
After allowing Geary and Hirst to discuss their concerns, centered on the belief that school officials have worked to silence dissenting views of “conservatives, republicans and libertarians,” Moffitt reiterated the school committee’s response according to which there is a formal process for complaints and appeals. available to any member of the public, whether or not they have a child in the school district.
“It’s long, but there’s a process available to everyone,” Moffitt said. “If this discussion is going to focus on non-parents wanting to come in and say what parents can have their children read in the school library, then that’s disruptive and unacceptable.”
Tuesday night’s discussion, which followed a request by Geary to add an agenda item about sending a letter to the school committee, drew heated comments as Hirst and Geary criticized again the committee’s treatment of former committee member Reverend David Stall. , a Republican who resigned in late September after expressing anger that his motion for a resolution condemning critical race theory was denied.
Hirst was a strong supporter of Stall’s, both before Hopkinton City Council and the school committee, and again expressed his displeasure. Davis spoke out against her objections, however, saying her complaints that there was no voice for non-parents were not accurate — she read a statement detailing the process — and saying no action of the school committee in no way interfered with freedom of expression. for taxpayers.
“If someone else has a strong opinion about library materials, that person can file a complaint with the superintendent or director,” Davis said. “Personally, I would like to see more, not less, material made available to students. Library materials should not be political and I am not in favor of sending a letter of condemnation to the superintendent or school board. »
The response angered Hirst, who then accused Davis and Moffitt of refusing to address the issue before declaring that the problem is a result of “academics being mostly anti-Republican, anti-conservative leftists.” .
“The problem is that only one side is heard,” he said. “We need free speech and all points of view should be there, and that means more Republican, Conservative and Libertarian points of view. I’ve seen the books come out these days and a lot of parents feel like they have to see certain materials when they want to be able to raise their kids in their own value system.
“This is about restricting the conservative view,” he shouted. “The left does not have all the control and the wisdom, despite its damn arrogance!”
Davis and Moffitt each asked Hirst which Republican documents were restricted, but he offered no examples. He said there were “much more liberal materials available” than would express conservative or opposing views.
Davis and Moffitt also took steps to clarify the criticized school board policy, which is specific to how complaints are made about what materials are or are not available for district classes and learning. Moffitt spent several minutes reading the policy, which was amended at the Chariho School Committee meeting in late October, including providing information regarding the policy for both parents/students, as well as discussing how non-parents could make their own complaints.
He also noted that a comment by Geary, which stated that non-parents would not be allowed to speak at school committee meetings, was incorrect and said that Geary and Hirst had had the opportunity to speak at the previous school committee meeting last week despite neither having a student from the neighborhood.
Moffitt also noted that, by process, the election is the right way for residents to express their voice and choose the people they want to represent on the Chariho School Committee. Hirst has complained that it has been difficult to find and elect representatives who support his views.
“Seems to me that should be your goal then,” Moffitt told Hirst. “If it’s your concern that your views aren’t being represented, then finding someone to represent those views should be your priority. You can say what you want and post what you want, but that’s how democracy works.