By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Councillor Anthony Zambuto filed a motion with the City Council for the superintendent of schools and the high school principal to appear before the council and explain what has been going on with a student caught up in a social media response.
“This has gotten a lot more publicity than it probably should,” said Zambuto, at Monday night’s council meeting. “It seems like certain people can say things and certain people can’t.”
On Tuesday, Supt. Dianne Kelly said she would likely not be appearing before the Council next week unless the School Committee asks her to.
“It is School Committee policy that none of us are allowed to appear before the City Council without School Committee approval,” she said. “They are welcome to come to any School Committee meeting. If they have questions, they can appear at a School Committee meeting. Regardless of any forum, I’m certainly not going to be giving out any information about student discipline. I won’t be going unless the School Committee tells me to because I do work for the School Committee.”
Zambuto was referring to an incident where a high school senior girl responded to a “tweet” from a teacher asking for opinions on why voter turnout was low during the recent election. Her response drew the ire of other students to the point where she has said she does not feel safe. At one point she allegedly left a classroom and went to the classroom taught by a friend of her family.
She was kicked off the cheerleading team and put on social probation.
“It was a loaded question asked by a teacher,” said Councillor Arthur Guinasso. “And that student has every right to answer. This is nothing against the superintendent or the principal. She shouldn’t have been sanctioned. I could see if this were a criminal activity, but this was a verbal response. A question was asked and an answer was given.”
Councillor-elect George Rotondo said the young lady left the classroom “she felt threatened and went to a friend.”
“This is cyber bullying,” Rotondo continued. “I’m infuriated. I applaud Tony for this. It’s free speech even though I don’t agree with what she said.”
Council President John Powers said the issue belongs in front of the School Committee and not the City Council.
“Someone’s free speech has been taken away,” Powers said.
School Committee Vice Chair Michael Ferrante said the Council had no authority to question the school administration.
“They really have no authority to do that,” he said. “They don’t know the whole story and the whole story can’t be told because of personal protections. They are 100 percent wrong. They should stop sticking their nose into something that doesn’t concern them. It is not a Council issue.”