To the Editor:
Debate is healthy and a part of the American way of life. As Americans, we enjoy the right of “free speech,” and the ability to exercise that right is something we all cherish. What we do not have the “right” to do is be abusive to one another when exercising that “right.”
What happened Friday, Nov. 15 during and following the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee’s (LTFPC) meeting was nothing more than “Mob Mentality.” There was endless screaming and banging on the doors to the meeting room in an effort to thwart the business of the committee. While we managed to review and vote on the recommendation regarding Veterans High School, it was not easy and events following the meeting are why I am writing these words today.
My experience exiting the meeting that evening was frightening. Following a short conversation with a few teachers, I turned to leave and a young woman and her mother approached me and began cursing and calling me names. Their behavior was childish at best, but in that environment it was a bit intimidating. I asked for and received escort to my car and as I was leaving, a large group of “protesters” noticed. There was a shout of “Look! They’re trying to leave out the side door!” Shouts of “You’re disgusting!” as well as, “Follow them and key their cars!” I saw teachers who have taught my oldest child in the crowd; I saw teachers who have taught my younger children, too. While they were not the ones shouting this hate, they did nothing to stop it either. I was shaking and scared because the level of vitriol that was coming from the “protesters” was frightening. This all happened because of a “recommendation?”
The mission of the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee is to make a “recommendation” regarding how to best use the educational facilities we have here in Warwick. The committee does not implement, nor does the committee determine, whether or not the plan will ever take root. We are a subcommittee of the Warwick School Committee. We were tasked by the Warwick School Committee to have our recommendation prepared by January 2014. Beginning in June, the LTFPC met almost weekly to meet our deadline and find what we believe is a reasonable solution to the problem of declining enrollment in our schools. All meetings were posted and open to the public; all meeting documents are on the Warwick Public Schools website. They always have been.
To the “protesters”: If there is a better choice than what we have on the table, please bring it forward. If there is an idea that we haven’t looked at, please bring it forward. Words and ideas can be powerful and persuasive; words tinged with threats and hate are not. People disagree. People can debate the issues without attacking each other. Uttering threats, being disrespectful and using intimidation to get your way is not the answer.