Guest columnists M.J. Schwartz: Morris continues to deflect and duck responsibility

By M.J. SCHWARTZ

Published: 08-21-2023 11:10 AM

Superintendent Michael Morris has returned from medical leave and is gearing up to begin the 2023-2024 school year without acknowledging his role in the middle school debacle, which the public was just beginning to learn about right before his leave began.

Instead, Morris has hidden behind professionally crafted statements of support for LGBTQIA+ students that sound less like an authentic response from a competent superintendent than a PR stunt vetted by a legal team on behalf of a man evading responsibility for his (in)actions.

The action steps outlined in the letter sent to Amherst-Pelham Regional School District parents Tuesday were vague, with no clear course of action for how, exactly, these steps would be followed through on [“Morris: Focus on LGBTQ  kids,” Gazette, July 2]. A true plan to protect LGBTQIA+ children would consist of step-by-step procedures, clearly outlined, as well as detailed explanations of the repercussions for those who violate the rules or deviate from the procedures when a child is facing bullying, discrimination, or other forms of abuse by either a peer or a staff member.

Furthermore, he did not credit Maxine Oland, a parent who filed a Title IX complaint on behalf of her child, who survived gender discrimination and bullying at Amherst Regional Middle School. Oland asked for many of those action steps on three different occasions last year, and her pleas for assistance in keeping her child safe at the school were ignored by Morris.

Even more galling, the letter Morris sent out indicates that teachers will undergo more DEI training in the handling of LGBTQIA+ issues in the coming school year.

Staff were filing complaints on behalf of these children all along, and Morris failed to act on these reports. It is deeply offensive that he is passing the buck, giving the public the impression that it was the teachers and staff who allowed this to happen.

No. Many teachers and staff members continuously jump through hoops and do everything in their power to ensure their LGBTQIA+ students’ safety.

It is easy to see why the APEA (the teachers union consisting of more than 500 people) has reiterated its vote no confidence in the leadership of Michael Morris. My only question is this: What leadership?

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I have yet to see anything from Morris — not to speak of the Amherst Regional School Committee, who should have long ago placed him on administrative leave — resembling anything of the sort.

M.J. Schwartz is an Amherst resident, parent, and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community with experience as a crisis counselor for LGBTQIA+ youths.

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