by Terry Rogers
At the October meeting of the Milford School District Board of Education, Dr. Adam Brownstein proposed that the district send a letter in support of the Delaware School Board Association (DSBA) who responded negatively to a letter sent to President Joe Biden on September 25 by the National School Boards Association (NSBA). At the November meeting, Brownstein read portions of a letter he hoped the Milford board members would sign and send to the state association in support.
“Before we begin this discussion, it is important to note that the NSBA has come forward and admitted that this letter was a mistake,” Jason Miller, President of Milford School District Board of Education said. “They have removed the Executive Director of NSBA and some of the staff have left as well. Many larger states have left the NSBA as a knee-jerk reaction. We are taking somewhat of a “let’s wait and see what happens” approach here in Delaware.”
The letter from the NSBA stated that local school boards are under “immediate threat” and respectfully asked for “federal law enforcement” to step in and deal with a “growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation. The letter continued, pointing out that social media threats as well as threats sent through the postal service along with physical threats at meetings were increasing, stating that “classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes”
“The Attorney General responded on October 4, stating that while spirited debate about policy matters is protected by the Constitution, it does not extend to threats and violence,” Brownstein read. “On October 6, the Delaware School Board Association issued a statement in response to the original NSBA letter that stated they were not consulted before that letter was sent nor did they agree with the sentiments expressed in that letter. We, the members of the Milford School Board, have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and as such, we fully support the First Amendment which includes community members’ right to address their locally elected officials. We need to continue to encourage active and even passionate debate on different topics. We must have the ability to speak on behalf of the people and not for the people.”
School board member David Vezmar disagreed with Brownstein’s views.
“I am in full agreement that the public should feel comfortable to speak out at meetings,” Vezmar said. “Across the country, our school board members and their families have been harassed and insulted. Does this equal domestic terrorism? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know much about that. At our own meeting in September, we had a family who was yelled at and attacked because others in the room did not want to wear a mask. Those who felt their rights were not being protected, or were being taken away, were actively trying to take away the rights of that family to be at the meeting. This was a Marine veteran who suffers from PTSD. This is a family that owns a business in our town and does a lot to support our town. They are still struggling with what happened at that meeting. That should not have happened, and Milford is better than that. People must have respect for the board and must understand that there will be differences of opinion. I am opposed to sending this letter. No one is taking away anyone’s first amendment rights. The NSBA was simply trying to address violence against school board members, and I agree with the sentiments of that letter.”
A roll call vote was taken with Vice-President Rony Baltazar Lopez, Miller and Vezmar voting against sending it while Brownstein, Scott Fitzgerald and Jean Wylie voted to send the letter. Because the vote ended in a tie, the measure did not pass.
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