Residents chastise Barrington school board for suspension case

Resident tells school committee members to withdraw RI Superior Court appeal

By Josh Bickford
Posted 11/8/19

Two local women spoke out against the Barrington School Committee's recent decision to take the Rhode Island Department of Education, the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, and one of its …

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Residents chastise Barrington school board for suspension case

Resident tells school committee members to withdraw RI Superior Court appeal

Posted

Two local women spoke out against the Barrington School Committee's recent decision to take the Rhode Island Department of Education, the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, and one of its own students to court. 

Judith Stokes and Vivian Weisman attended the school committee meeting on Thursday night, Nov. 7, and took turns addressing the committee during the public comment period. 

Both women cited the recent article in The Barrington Times detailing the committee's decision to challenge rulings by the former RIDE Commissioner and the CESE, which called for the school department to vacate a student's three-day out-of-school suspension from 2018. The agencies agreed with the student's family, believing that the boy was unfairly disciplined for taking part in a lunchroom conversation about school shootings. School officials allege that the conversation caused a disruption to the school community.

Ms. Weisman said she was appalled with the Barrington School Committee's decision to continue pursuing the case. She questioned the school committee's argument that this case could set a precedent that would impact the school department's ability to exact punishments in future incidents. Ms. Weisman said that the only precedent it sets is that of school officials intimidating students.

"Students, instead of being taught to fight for their rights are being intimidated," she said. "I'm really concerned about that.

Ms. Weisman also told members of the school committee that as a taxpayer, she did not like that her money was being spent to fight this case.  

"I think it's really appalling," Ms. Weisman said.

Members of the school committee and other administrators, including superintendent of schools Michael Messore, did not respond to Ms. Weisman's comments.

Ms. Stokes spoke after Ms. Weisman, asking members of the school committee to withdraw their case from RI Superior Court. 

Ms. Stokes also shared some of her reaction to the details of the case, but shortly after the three-minute timer sounded, Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Dr. Megan Douglas told Ms. Stokes that she needed to stop speaking and allow other people to address the committee. Dr. Douglas said Ms. Stokes could revisit the microphone and add to her comments once everyone else was finished speaking.

Ms. Stokes replied: "Rather than beating a dead horse, I think it would be best for everyone if the case was withdrawn."

The school committee did not respond to the comment.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.