By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – The makeup of the Southgate Community Schools Board of Education was again revised with the removal of Rebecca Reed as president of the panel.
During a special meeting June 14, trustees voted to replace Reed with Vice President Paul Knott. Reed said the decision was based on her having a “conflict of interest” during recent discussions involving a video for which a teacher was disciplined.
“It comes down to the fact that my son was involved,” Reed said of the decision.
School officials and administrators have debated in recent months an incident at Anderson High School during which three students had either been shown or otherwise viewed a short, sexually-graphic video on the cell phone of a teacher. The video – an animated sex-ed instructional piece – sparked debate among board members regarding the response by administrators.
The teacher in question claimed that the three students took her phone and viewed the video; Reed said the students were shown the video by the teacher, and were uncomfortable with the content.
The board first discussed the situation during a March study session. In April former Trustee W. Kirk Hayhurst proposed that the board censure Reed and Knott for “outrageous and inappropriate behavior,” but found no support for his motions. Hayhurst resigned his seat, and in April was replaced on the panel by Selden Green.
The video and district’s response continued to factor in board discussions on May 31, when Reed read a letter she received from the Southgate Supervisors and Principals Association that questioned her attendance at a disciplinary hearing involving the teacher.
While it was understood that Reed’s attendance was as a parent, not as a trustee, the Association alleged that Reed had, “departed from that status and were abusive and caustic to the administrator.”
The teacher had been disciplined for having left her phone unattended and accessible by students.
Tensions on the board continued when trustees were not invited to speak during the Anderson High School graduation ceremonies, as had been tradition in the past. Reed said she remained supportive of school staff in spite of recent disagreements.
“We have great teachers,” Reed said. “I wouldn’t put my kids there if we didn’t. I’m a mother first and foremost.”
Reed had no plans on leaving the board – with two years left of her term – unless she succeeds in her bid for the state House of Representatives. That candidacy had also come under scrutiny by the board and union officials, who noted that she had made use of social media and other forums to reiterate allegations regarding the video and administration’s response.
“False criticism or defamatory statements will not be tolerated and may be a basis for legal action,” the Association’s letter advised.
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)