Archive for Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Students who violated LHS policies in derogatory messages will be ‘held accountable’ — how, exactly, remains unclear

Lawrence High School students crowd the LHS rotunda on the morning of Sept. 18, 2017, in support of transgender rights and against what some described as a pervasive culture of transphobic behavior at the school. This photo was shared with the Journal-World by a student.

Lawrence High School students crowd the LHS rotunda on the morning of Sept. 18, 2017, in support of transgender rights and against what some described as a pervasive culture of transphobic behavior at the school. This photo was shared with the Journal-World by a student.

September 20, 2017


Lawrence High School students who violated school policy in the GroupMe conversation that triggered Monday’s protest at LHS will face disciplinary action, school and district officials said Wednesday.

But whether that means detention, suspension or a stern lecture won’t be made public. Doing so, interim Superintendent Anna Stubblefield said, would violate school board policy.

“Certain comments and things that were mentioned have been addressed by administration,” Stubblefield told the Journal-World. “But we’re not going to comment on which comments (specifically), because that isolates which student it was.”

However, she added, the public should know that the students who made the derogatory comments — including one that equated transgenderism with mental illness — in last week’s senior chat will be “held accountable.”

The comments in question came from a group text conversation that began Wednesday and included more than 200 LHS seniors. It started out innocently enough, Stubblefield said, with students discussing outfits for that week’s football game against Lee’s Summit West. The conversation then devolved into the provocative comments — by some — that student protesters argued violated school policies around bullying and harassment.

On Wednesday, Stubblefield acknowledged that certain portions of the GroupMe chat did violate the district’s policies.

“There were things in (the chat) that were out of bounds and not OK, and they impacted the school day,” Stubblefield said. “When things occur outside of the school day, we typically are able to intervene and address it when it has an impact on what’s happening in the school day, and obviously we did that.”

LHS Principal Matt Brungardt also said that staff had talked with students involved and will continue what he feels have been constructive conversations in the days ahead.

Some of the anecdotes — from LGBT students describing alleged transphobic bullying and harassment at the school — that have emerged over the last week, Brungardt said, hadn’t been reported until now. That’s something he’d like to change.

“If something happens, make sure you tell us. Don’t assume people know, don’t assume we know,” Brungardt said. “And we told staff, ‘If you see something in your classroom and you think it’s off, just go ahead and let us know.”

“I feel like we can do a pretty good job of policing what we know,” he added. “If something happens and we don’t know about it, it’s pretty hard to do anything with it.”

The school is equipped with social workers, counselors and plenty of supportive teachers for vulnerable students to turn to, Brungardt said, though he acknowledges there’s work to be done in publicizing those resources.

There’s also a form on the school’s website — and the websites of schools across the district — for students to report incidents anonymously, Stubblefield said. She and other district leaders are hoping last week’s senior chat and the ensuing protest might provide insight into why such incidents aren’t always reported.

Stubblefield also said there are plans to strengthen partnerships with parents regarding digital citizenship, encouraging moms and dads to discuss navigating the internet safely and with courtesy toward others.

“In today’s world, our schools are just a reflection of what is happening in our society, and we’re navigating through this with teenagers and young adults,” Stubblefield said. “That’s a different component because, while at the same time we’re trying to hold students accountable, this is a learning opportunity for them as well.

“And it’s an opportunity for them to learn from one another and to recognize that we all have different viewpoints and different perspectives,” she added. “But that doesn’t give you a right to be rude or inappropriate or disrespectful to anyone.”


Justin Hoffman 6 months ago

These students who are punished and their parents should sue the district for violation of their First Amendment rights.

Bob Forer 6 months ago

I knew there was a reason you don't practice law.

Rick Masters 6 months ago

Being our resident legal expert, you should represent them pro bono.

Evan Taylor 6 months ago

Something tells me you don't quite understand how the First Amendment works, Justin.

Morse v. Frederick (aka the "Bong Hits for Jesus" case) strikes me as relevant precedent for the school's choice to punish those students.

Justin Hoffman 6 months ago

The Supreme Court ruled his rights were not violated because it occurred at a school event. The LHS students texted each other away from school. Completely different. Try to keep up Evan.

Greg Cooper 6 months ago

And you know where these texts originated, how?

Evan Taylor 6 months ago

Don't worry about me, Justin; you're the one falling behind. Great job of pointing out the argument's obvious broad strokes while ignoring its nuances. Things to consider: was the GroupMe chat something set up by the school or independently by the students? Does it matter that the comments occurred within the context of talking about a school event? (e.g. if a student drove to a school event displaying the infamous Bong Hits 4 Jesus sign and was later recognized at said event, would they still be justifiably punished for negatively impacting the school's image?) Does the alleged fact that athletes (public, recognizable representatives of the school) were the main perpetrators justify the administration's decision to levy a punishment? Either way, their rights aren't necessarily being violated; the Firat Amendment lets you express yourself, but doesn't grant immunity from consequences. There's a lot more at play than you're acknowledging.

Mark Garcia 5 months ago

The GroupMe was set up by students, but the reason for possible consequences against the accused was of conduct unbecoming of a student-athlete. It says in some document that playing a sport is a privilege that can be revoked when said student has bad behavior.

Christine Anderson 6 months ago

Freedom of speech must be balanced with prudence. There are consequences to what we say. Those students whose texts violated school policy well, they should be given the "gift" of a chance to learn cause and effect. To those students who have been shoved, kicked, and are called names, I am so sorry. No student should have to be afraid to use the bathroom, walk the halls, or not feel safe at school. Sincere congrats to ALL of you who had the strength to stand up for others, yourselves, and for what you believe.

Bob Smith 6 months ago

They'll be placed on double-secret probation?

Greg Cooper 6 months ago

The news, Scott, is that you really believe CNS NEWS is really news. It's not. It's a religiously slanted, fact-free opinion site, and nothing else. Nice try. Maybe a bit of fact finding would help you.

And, it might be interesting to know whether you support bullying of people with mental disorders. That's the only justification for your stance, Scott, and is even less justifiable than any other.

Justin Hoffman 6 months ago

CNS News simply reported the findings of Dr . Paul McHugh, that transgenderism is a mental disorder. What you think of CNS News has nothing to do with his findings. I assume you went to school and learned these simple points. Perhaps not.

Greg Cooper 6 months ago

Yes, Justin, I did go to school, and one thing I learned to do was think critically. As in, check out the sources of "information" cited in any debate. So I do, and I did, in this case, check out your "information". So....

Yeah, Dr. Paul McHugh: a guy who thinks homosexuality is "an erroneous desire", that's my kind of "expert". Justin, even you can't....oh, never mind. You probably can. Sorry to interrupt your Peter Pan world, buddy.

Andrew Dufour 6 months ago

The point is that CNS news published something of dubious credibility.

Peaty Romano 6 months ago

Incorrect Scott, similar to the change in 1973 when they removed homosexuality as a mental disorder in the DSM, Gender Disphoria has also been removed in DSM 5.

Richard Aronoff 6 months ago

The "BMOCs" should be publicly shamed. No need to put anything on their permanent records. Just let everyone know who they are. Then, the rest of the LHS community can decide if they wish to associate with the trolls.

As for violating the troll's rights, freedom of speech guarantees that they can say whatever they want. But there is no guarantee of protection from the consequences of their speech.

Bob Smith 6 months ago

Shaming and then shunning and then stoning. One thing leads to another....

Brian Dennison 6 months ago

It should be noted. 1. At least 90% of the group chat members were not football players. 2. Stating an opinion on transgenders or homosexuals or bi sexual in general is not bullying. 3. While the LGBT community has legitimate concerns they often push the boundaries far into the rights of non LGBT people who have as much right to their beliefs as the LGBT community. 4. It is sad when a small group of people through protest can change the acceptance and norms of a much larger group of society.

Calvin Anders 6 months ago

I feel like the angle here should be suspension from sports participation, at least for athletes who made comments that violated policy. This is for a number of reason. One reason is that students don't give up their first amendment rights just by attending school. While some of these comments might cross the line into explicit harassment, some of the comments (as characterized by the LJW reports) may be closer to ignorant parroting of right wing propaganda. So, as students, perhaps some of these athletes were not across the line. But as athletes, they have agreed to take greater responsibility to represent their school in a positive light. If they violated athletic program policy, they should be punished based participation in team sports. That doesn't have to mean they are benched for the season or kicked off the team. But it should be a punishment that gets their attention. Secondly, punishing athletes with suspension from a game or 2 is a high profile means to demonstrate that the administration takes the issue seriously. A little detention is barely a slap on the wrist, but sitting out a game gets everyone's attention. And the point is to get everyone's attention. It shows that the school places more importance on reasonable behavior and personal responsibility than sports. The protestors should demand that the school do more than claim those responsible will be "held accountable". That sounds like they are just trying to get back to business as usual without really addressing the issue at all.

Peaty Romano 6 months ago

This is what the list of demands were

Bob Smith 6 months ago

Offenders must perform self-criticism under the supervision of nomenklatura. Offenders must attend reeducation camps. Pillories will be installed at LHS for the offenders who fail to conform.

Richard Aronoff 6 months ago

For anyone who thinks that gender disphoria is some sort of new-age fad, I have two words for you: Christine Jorgensen

Commenting has been disabled for this item.