Bentonville School Board member accused of 'cyber bullying' | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bentonville School Board member accused of 'cyber bullying'

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2015 at 6:54 AM

click to enlarge TRIGGER: This Facebook note drew a response from Rebecca Powers, a Bentonville school board member, shown below.
  • TRIGGER: This Facebook note drew a response from Rebecca Powers, a Bentonville school board member, shown below.
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the Bentonville School Board is set to discuss a parent's complaint of cyber bullying of her daughter by School Board member Rebecca Powers.

Paula Mantel said Powers had called her daughter an atheist, rude and disrespectful in a Facebook post and also said inaccurately that she'd been reprimanded by school officials for her role in a demonstration by students in support of a proposal before the School Board to adopt a non-discrimination policy for district employees that would guard against, among others, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Powell has been an outspoken opponent of the non-discrimination proposal.

A photo was made of Powers' comment on a Facebook page operated by opponents of the non-discrimination proposal. It has since been removed.

"While the statement Miss Powers made is completely untrue and shocking in and of itself, the fact that a School Board member in this district would cyberbully a student in a social media post violates the School Board's code of conduct and ethics policies," Mantel said.


Board president Travis Riggs said he'd intended to discuss the matter at a meeting Monday that turned into a marathon airing of comments for and against the employee policy. He said he'd bring it up June 1. Powers and her children had signed up to speak, but chose not to. She said at the time that they'd been bullied and threatened, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Powers did not respond to requests for comment on the allegation against her.

click to enlarge rebecca.jpg

CORRECTION: The post has been edited to correct the spelling of Powers' name.

Following is the full letter sent to school officials about the use of social media by Powers



Dr. Mr. Poore and Board Members,

We know the discussion of EEO policy has been charged, with citizens on both sides of the issue taking to social media to share information. If you didn’t know already, Gretchen Bellamy and I co-administer the site BPS Citizens for Equality (www.facebook.com/BPSCitizensForEquality). Our community is getting involved, reaching out, and sharing thoughts and information in a public forum.

It has come to our attention that School Board member, Rebecca Powers, posted a public comment on facebook about a student. The comment was phrased so that the student was easily identifiable and contained personal private details about the student including her religious beliefs and prior disciplinary actions. BHS staff told us this post may have even been inaccurate, identifying the wrong student with these details. We have attached screen shots of the event.

The offending comment occurred on the public facebook group “Protecting OUR Children” as a comment on a post by Mr. Leas’ spouse regarding the rally at BHS this afternoon. We were glad to see that the comment was eventually removed, however, it is deplorable that an attack on a student by a school board member even occurred.

We, of all people, understand being passionate about one's position on the EEO policy, but publicly posting private details about a teenage student in the district where you are sworn to “promote student learning by creating an atmosphere that is safe for our students” is completely unacceptable. You have a school board member violating the district’s own bullying policy which states, in part:

The Bentonville Public School District wants to promote student learning by creating an atmosphere that is safe for our students. To assist in this effort and keep our learning environment one that fosters growth and advancement for all our students, the Board of Education and the Administration have updated the Bullying Policy.

Respect for the dignity of others is a cornerstone of civil society. Bullying creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, robs a person of his/her dignity, detracts from the safe environment necessary to promote student learning, and will not be tolerated by the Board of Education.

Examples of “Bullying” may include but are not limited to behavior involving one or more of the following:
1. Sarcastic comments or “compliments” about another student’s personal appearance or actual or perceived attributes,
2. Pointed questions intended to embarrass or humiliate,
3. Mocking, taunting or belittling,
4. Non-verbal threats and/or intimidation,... and
12. Teasing or name-calling.
Board of Education's Bullying Policy for the 2011-2012 school year, approved 09-12-2011.
Click the attached document below for more information on this policy.
Legal Reference: A.C.A. § 6-18-514
Source: https://bentonvillek12.org/web/news/?Id=1618

In addition, this action violates the School Board Code of Ethics which, in part, reads:

As a member of my local Board of Education, representing all the citizens of my school district, I recognize that:
1. my fellow citizens have entrusted me with the educational development of the children and youth of this community.
2. the public expects my first and greatest concern to be in the best interest of each and every one of these young people without distinction as to who they are or what their background may be.

This action by Ms. Powers could put the school district at risk for litigation from the student(s) identified in her comment. We ask that the board fully investigate the incident according to its procedures and for swift and harsh disciplinary action be taken against Ms. Powers up to and including her removal from the board should she be found in violation.

Sincerely,
Amy Gillespie & Gretchen Bellamy

Then there was a followup:

Good morning Superintendent & Board Members,

As a follow-up to our email sent yesterday evening, we feel it is important to inform you that in the moments following our email to you last night, Ms. Powers reposted her message of intimidation and bullying. Her new message only enhanced the already inflammatory message she posted previously and added more baseless assumptions. One would expect that Ms. Powers would act ethically and within the parameters of school board guidelines. Given the reaction of the student and her parents, we are asking for the immediate suspension and investigation of Ms. Powers’ attacks against this student as well as community members and constituents she was elected to protect and represent.

We are, again, attaching screen shots of the incident for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Amy Gillespie & Gretchen Bellamy

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