Supt. Priya Tahiliani has met with several students who were upset over public inappropriate Tweets allegedly posted by an Everett High teacher in June following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests and vigils that followed across the country – including in Everett and Boston.
Those Tweets were detailed in a story in the Independent last month, and Tahiliani told students recently the district condemns the Tweets, is working on discipline for the incident, but most importantly, is working on clear policies that will allow termination of an employee that isn’t conforming to the value statements of the district.
The situation with the teacher, Robert LeGrow, was not covered under any such policy, and his speech was protected through his Constitutional rights and an unclear social media policy that Tahiliani said is being reformed.
“I share your frustration as you constructively and thoughtfully react to tragic national events as well as this specific incident here in Everett,” she wrote. “The social media comments made by one of our teachers were insensitive, hostile, and failed to comprehend the driving forces behind the protests that were held in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
“While we condemned these posts and are still in the process of imposing progressive consequences, I am aware that we have not implemented the particular consequence you seek,” she continued. “In our attempts to build a district we are all proud of, we cannot bypass or ignore the protections that are afforded to all individuals, be they as citizens of our country or, in this case, as a member of the school community.”
She said what can be done is “institute long term sustainable changes” that address the systemic and institutional racism that plague the nation and the school district. She said the district is working on long-term changes to put in place clear policies that ensure those working for Everett Public Schools with follow the core values of the district both professionally and privately.
“While we all retain our first amendment right, now is the time to make both the statement and the policies that, in the future, ensure that our district reserves the right to terminate those who demonstrate views that are grossly unaligned with the values we know to be right and just,” she said. “I am neither frustrated nor intimidated by having these difficult dialogues.”
Supt. Tahiliani thanked the students for bringing the Tweets to the attention of the public, and pushing the public schools in Everett to have conversations about the subject.
“I am proud that the district is finally discussing these subjects publicly,” she said, noting that the district has been implementing a three-phased Elevating Equity for Everett plan. “I firmly believe that you, our young leaders, are the strong voice we need in advocating for change to denounce institutional racism. As a school district, I thank each and every one of you for being a positive change agent in this work. This conversation is just beginning, and this work is only at its initial stages. We have a long way to go, but I feel confident we will get there.”