Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Kearny board of education member hasn't had enough controversy

Kearny board of education member Paul Castelli has apparently decided that the town hasn't had enough controversy over history teacher David Paskiewicz's misuse of the classroom as an evangelizing pulpit, and has gone public with a denunciation of the board's conciliatory statement from last week. The Observer reports:
“Matthew LaClair is absolutely not a hero,” Castelli said, referring to a statement the Board made last week that praised Matthew for standing up for his rights. “His parents are opportunists and it’s a combination of both Matthew and his parents. Though I leave it up to the people to decide for themselves, it’s pretty obvious that he (Matt’s father, Paul) did just as much speaking as his son did.”

In addition to seeing Matt as far from a hero, Castelli also said he was not convinced the Anti-Defamation League’s curriculum was what was needed. The ADL will soon be instructing students and teachers on the parameters involved in the separation of church and state.

“I would have been more comfortable if there had been more specifics as to what they would be teaching the students and teachers,” Castelli said. “It was really unclear what they were actually going to do.”

He also says the Board was never given a clear resolution to a Board-directed investigation into suspected harassment against Matthew.

Matthew claimed to have been harassed numerous times by classmates, including a death threat on his Myspace Web page — an incident that was investigated by the Kearny Police Department.

Finally, Castelli says that despite suspected closure in the matter with the agreement, he still feels the Board is susceptible to being named in a lawsuit, should someone (he didn’t mention anyone or entity specifically) decide to sue the LaClairs.
Who, and on what grounds, would someone sue the LaClairs? They've done nothing wrong--all they've done is insist that the board of education do the right thing about improper classroom behavior by a teacher whose initial defense was to deny what he had been recorded doing.

Castelli is also quoted at the Observer saying that he doesn't feel sorry for Matthew LaClair for receiving taunts and threats from classmates, stating (incorrectly) that "Throughout the ordeal, he was asked to identify the kids who had done these things to him, and not once did he identify anyone. How could anyone be expected to take action if they didn’t know whom they were taking action against? It wasn’t possible. And it wasn’t possible to feel sorry for someone unless they were willing to give up the information we needed to ensure a proper investigation took place." As the Observer points out, "Matthew has said it was impossible to identify possible threat makers because often, taunts would be hurled from within a large group of kids. Additionally, Matthew did identify, for police, the student who made the Myspace death threat against him several months ago."

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