Greenwich Teachers Rally at BOE Meeting to Protest “Threatening and Harassing” Behaviors

On Thursday night over 100 public school teachers, including members of the GEA and CEA walked en masse from Greenwich High School to the Board of Education meeting at Central Middle School carrying signs saying, “Stop Attacking Teachers,” “Stop Harassing Teachers,” and We Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

Teachers arrived en mass to Thursday’s Board of Education meeting at Central Middle School. Oct 21, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

With school security and several uniformed police officers in attendance, the BOE meeting started with chair Peter Bernstein reminding the audience about requirements to comply with the board’s policy 9325 concerning orderly conduct.

Each speaker during public comment was given 3 minutes to speak.

They were told that objective criticisms were welcome, but complaints about individual personnel should be addressed through proper chain of command.

“People should be aware that if their statements violate the rights of others, under the law of defamation or invasion of privacy the speaker may be held legally responsible,” Bernstein warned. “Speakers unsure of the legal ramifications of what they are about to say are urged to consult with their legal advisor.”

GEA president Lil Perrone addresses the Board of Education at Central Middle School. Oct 21, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

GEA president Lil Perrone addressed the board.

“Board members, you are asking at these meetings, ‘How can I help when issues arise in our district?’ Well, we as teachers need your help. I really don’t understand how we arrived at this place and time. Last year we were thanking teachers for their heroic efforts and hard work.”

“Today, we have a small but loud group of individuals and parents who have taken it upon themselves to target one of our distinguished and highly respected educators, even to the extent of following her on private sites and visits. Some teachers have received threatening emails. We’ve been called criminals or even worse. How can we allow this to continue? Aren’t we all entitled to a safe workplace, free from harassment and intimidation? We cannot allow our friends and colleagues to be harassed, bullied and threatened. This must stop now.”

“Can we oppose these special interest groups and others who harass our dedicated educators for doing their job, or telling the truth, or shedding light on problems we face including inequality and equity?” she asked. “We must protect the benefits of fact-based learning and diversity in our schools, affirm our commitment to the values of academic integrity and honesty that have been the hallmarks of American educators for decades.”

Keith Steinberg, a school parent said he had listened to Tuesday’s BOE debate and heard the Greenwich Patriots being singled out by the moderator.

“To clarify, to my knowledge, Greenwich Patriots are not anti-vax. They are against an experimental Covid vaccine,” Steinberg said. “The vaccine pushers have become a cult that censure any information that doesn’t fit their narrative.”

Jackie Homan called in via Zoom, saying her son had received an exemption from wearing a face mask, but had been bullied into wearing one at school.

“He wears it because you’ve created such a toxic, hostile environment in the school that he’d rather sacrifice his health than get chased down the hall and hauled into another disciplinary meeting with your brown shirts,” she said, referring to the Nazi paramilitary group whose methods of violent intimidation played a key role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.

Self-described “patriot,” Roger Rosenthal, a parent whose children who attended Greenwich Public Schools, said he considered himself an activist in his youth, and had marched for civil rights and monitored election fairness in Mississippi, said he spoke without representing any political movement.

“I’m here as a patriot. What does that mean? A patriot loves America, and as such opposes children being taught to hate America,” he said to a round of applause.

“A patriot accepts a history full of flaws. Slavery was abominable. So was genocide. We’re not perfect,” he said. “A patriot also loves freedom, including freedom to make one’s choices for better and for worse….I’m a patriot, I’m not fringe.”

RTM member and Greenwich Schools parent Carl Higbie, who spoke without a mask because he has a veterans exemption, said if there were threats against teachers, the BOE should call him for help. He held up a poster with his cell phone number.

He also held up posters with the cell phone numbers of the BOE chair and superintendent.

“Call them, maybe they’ll start getting involved,” he said. “Your cell phone numbers are being passed around. Maybe you’ll listen if enough people start calling you.”

“Get the masks off my kids. They hate them. They come home crying,” Higbie continued. “I’m glad I passed out the cell phone numbers for these two. Give ’em a call. If my kids are distressed over this, then you’re going to be distressed over this.”

State Rep Kimberly Fiorello (R-149) spoke after Mr. Higbie.

Ms Fiorello, who pulled off her face mask to speak from the podium, was told to put her mask on multiple times.

She said that in Hartford, representatives were allowed to take their masks off when they addressed the legislature.

“I will observe your rules here,” she said.

“That would be the Governor’s rule. You can take it up with him,” Bernstein said.

Fiorello said she served on the education committee in Hartford, and warned of “one size fits all” ideas.

She urged parents to be vigilant about their children’s curriculum.

“I think there is a trend of educators skipping over administrators skipping over explanations to parents,” she said.

“As a resident of this town I strongly urge our Board to put education first and resist the urge to go toward agendas that move away from core classical education competencies for K-12. There is a great push for that coming from Hartford. I urge parents to stay vigilant and for the board to also stay vigilant that Greenwich keep core classic competencies.”

After the public comment period, which lasted an hour, hundreds of attendees, including parents and teachers, filed out of the auditorium.

Greenwich Schools teachers paused outside the entrance to Central Middle School for a group photo just before the Board of Education meeting. Oct 21, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
Carl Higbie addresses the Board of Education at Central Middle School. Oct 21, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
State Rep Kimberly Fiorello was asked by BOE chair Peter Bernstein to put her mask on when addressing the Board. Oct 21, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

See also:

Fiery Board of Ed Debate Touches on Masks, Curriculum, Capital, Achievement Gap, Social-Emotional Learning