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Letter: Student voices

To the Chairman of the Mahar Regional School Committee:

As a member of the Mohawk Regional School Committee, I must speak out about the story in this morning’s Recorder. Without making any judgment about the merits of the issue of K-12 regionalization, I am appalled that Mr. Magee, a civics and history teacher, has been suspended for voicing his opinions on the matter. But I am outraged that administrators in your district have prohibited students from publicly expressing their opinions about the suspension on their Facebook pages. Furthermore, I would like to remind your superintendent that it is illegal under the state Open Meeting Law to hold a hearing to review the disciplinary action against Mr. Magee in executive session when Mr. Magee has requested that it be held in open session.

May I remind you that we live in a democracy and that teachers and students do not surrender their First Amendment right to free speech when the become employees or enrollees of a school district. In fact, I applaud the students for taking up this issue.

Recently, more than 200 students and parents at the Mohawk Trail Regional High School petitioned their school committee to reverse the dropping of a Peer Leadership course and French language courses from their school. After much testimony by those students and parents, as well as debate, pro and con, by town officials, the public, and the School Committee, we voted to add $80,000 back into our budget to reinstate those courses to the curriculum. We are proud of our students for taking the initiative to stand up for what they believe in and to support a well-respected teacher who developed the Peer Leadership curriculum. And despite the increased costs, so far, our town meetings have been willing to support the increase in our district budget.

Our students and parents and the voters in our district are our “customers.” When they take an interest in speaking about what they want from their schools, we do well to listen. What kind of lesson about taking responsibility for their community do we give them when we try to shut them out of public debate?

JOE KURLAND

Member, Mohawk Trail Regional School District

Colrain

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