Report by Paula Antolini, January 13, 2021, 12:25PM EDT
Is it proper for Dr, Christine Carver, the Bethel Public Schools Superintendent, to send letters to parents, guardians and staff, indicating her personal views regarding a political event?
Well, 107 citizens (as of this writing) think it is very improper and are questioning her motives and actions and demanding her dismissal.
In a change.org petition created 5 days ago entitled, “Replacement of Bethel Public Schools Superintendent,” and signed by 115 individuals so far, it is “respectfully requesting that the Board of Education and First Selectman begin the process of terminating and replacing” Dr. Christine Carver, Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools. Supporters ask that she be removed from her position because “Mrs. Christine Carver uses her position as school superintendent as her own personal platform for pontificating her personal political beliefs, condemning those who are of an opposite opinion of hers,” and more. “Mrs. Carver herself is responsible for creating a segmented and divided environment in our schools. She has made it quite clear that she favors students whose families share her beliefs,” reads the statement in the petition
The full petition text is:
“Parents of Bethel CT students have been subjective to a dictatorial, biased superintendent for far too long and are respectfully requesting that the Board of Education and First Selectman begin the process of terminating and replacing her. Mrs. Christine Carver uses her position as school superintendent as her own personal platform for pontificating her personal political beliefs, condemning those who are of an opposite opinion of hers. While preaching that we should promote a school environment of diversity and inclusion, Mrs. Carver herself is responsible for creating a segmented and divided environment in our schools. She has made it quite clear that she favors students whose families share her beliefs. She knowingly did not respond to older students bullying students who had differing beliefs that hers.
“Our children DESERVE a safe and unbiased education, which Mrs.Carver clearly is unable to provide them. On behalf of our children, we respectfully ask that she be removed from her position and replace her with someone who can respect ALL students and families.
This petition and crusade was brought on after Dr. Carver released a letter (view below) on January 7, 2021, to “Colleagues,” referring to “the events in our nation’s capitol yesterday,” (plural) stating, “For the first time in 52 years I am ashamed to be an American.” and “What we witnessed was nothing short of an attack on our democracy and constitution and yet another example of overt racism.”
However, Carver did not actually specifically state what events (plural) she meant or which individuals she meant, regarding “the individuals involved in the actual storming of the capital,” whose identities were still unknown to anyone, that occurred on January 6, 2021 in Wash. D.C., or what she meant by “overt racism.”
She later stated in her Jan. 8th response to The Bethel Advocate’s inquiry, that she meant only ONE event, and indicated two separate groups, stating, “many people attending the rally the same day were peaceful and not associated with the individuals involved in the actual storming of the capital,” once again, even before any investigation was done to distinguish exactly what had happened that day, or identities of any individuals.
Should Dr, Carver be speculating and commenting on issues yet to be confirmed for exact facts? Or is this a form of coercion, with an aim to indicate her personal feelings in emails, on a political topic, putting pressure or perhaps fear on employees’ minds to not reveal their possible opposite stance, and fear for their jobs? Or, even a pressure on parents’ and guardians’ minds, that their child might not be treated equally if they don’t agree with Dr. Carver’s political viewpoint or interpretation of a current event?
Carver stated in a later response to The Bethel Advocate:
“First, let me state that any communication regarding the events of this week only referred to the storming of the capital. As we are all aware, many people attending the rally the same day were peaceful and not associated with the individuals involved in the actual storming of the capital. Peaceful protest is the right of all Americans.
“My letter to the community was not intended to be political, but a reflection of a national event (storming of the capital), which had a significant impact on all Americans, but in my role as Superintendent of Schools, on our youth. The main point of the letter was to provide parents strategies to help children to process the event (storming of the capital) with their children, who might be experiencing anxiety and stress, as a result of seeing images. In my tenure in Bethel, I have done similar letters with other incidents.”
View the first letter issued on January 7th, to “Colleagues” below:
On Friday, January 8, 2021, The Bethel Advocate requested a clarification from Dr. Carver, of issues discussed in her first January 7th letter to “Colleagues.” She replied on Jan. 8th at 2:54pm and said, “I am more than happy to speak with you. Can you send me your phone number again? There were only two emails/letters. It is clear you saw the email. Did you get the letter to parents?”
We are not sure why she thinks Bethel Advocate News Media would get a “Letter to Parents” if she did not specifically send it to media, which she never does, it was not sent to The Bethel Advocate.
On January 8th at 6:16pm, we asked Carver to reply in writing to questions we sent her, due to the fact that questions were numerous, and we referred to many of her exact comments in her letter. The Bethel Advocate stated to Carver, in part, “This is an important topic and I want to make sure I have your statements clarified correctly, in an organized manner, regarding all the areas I asked you about. I also asked for copies of regulations or curriculums regarding interactions with students etc.“ She replied again at 8:27pm stating, “I can do it tomorrow. “
On January 9th at 6:12am we receive her extensive response to our questions but no copies or regulations or curriculums that we had asked her to provide to us.
It appeared as if, in some cases, that Carver was re-stating her comments in a slightly different manner. For example, one of her her comments in the first letter was, “the events yesterday evoke feelings of disgust, anger, anxiety and sadness.” She refers to plural “events.” Yet when questioned, she wrote “I was specifically referring to the individuals involved with the destruction of our nation’s capital, leading to levels of violence, and the attempt to stop the functions within the government,” basically indicting the motive for the “destruction” would lead to “violence” and she even indicated the the motive was “to stop the functions within the government“ even before anything was investigated.
View The Bethel Advocate questions to Carver and her responses below, in full, her answers in red:
The Bethel Advocate Question 1: You stated, “the events yesterday evoke feelings of disgust, anger, anxiety and sadness.” What specific events are you referring to and what exactly made you feel that way?
Dr, Carver response: “I was specifically referring to the individuals involved with the destruction of our nation’s capital, leading to levels of violence, and the attempt to stop the functions within the government.”
The Bethel Advocate Question 2: You stated, “For the first time in 52 years I am ashamed to be an American.” What made you feel “ashamed to be an American” and how do you, or will you, describe that in detail to parents/guardians/students/districtstaff? What exact incident in particular caused these feelings? What criteria was not met, or what criteria was not followed, that made you “ashamed to be an American“? Are you or school officials) planning on describing these feelings in detail, to parents/guardians/students/districtstaff?
Dr, Carver response: “I did not express those feelings in my letter to the community. In my email to staff, I expressed being ashamed that some American citizens feel that as a means of protest (storming of the Capital), it is acceptable to engage in violence and the destruction of our nation’s capital. The example and impact of those actions on our children is significant.”
The Bethel Advocate Question 3: You stated, “What we witnessed was nothing short of an attack on our democracy and constitution and yet another example of overt racism.” Please explain what particular incident made you feel it was an “attack” and particularly what happened to make you feel it was “overt racism.” What occurred that made you feel a particular event was “racism” or an “attack“? Please name the incident.
Dr, Carver response: “The incident I was referring to was only the storming into the capitol while congress was attempting to do their business. It was no secret that there were self proclaimed white supremist groups involved in the storming of the capital. Some examples include, carrying of confederate flags, a noose placed in a hallway, clothing with Nazi symbols. One third of our student body is minority. The impact of these symbols has a significant effect on our students of color.”
***Editor note: How did Dr. Carver make the determination it was “no secret” that there were “self proclaimed white supremist groups” if no investigation had yet been done yet, or results of an investigation had not released yet? Simply by seeing yet unidentified individuals wearing certain clothing or carrying particular flags? It was later determined and reported upon, that individuals were allegedly posing as Trump supporters in many ways, to make it appear as if Trump rally supporters were violent. The investigation is still ongoing, suspecting even more operatives involved, so nothing is absolute yet although arrests have been made. So what is this teaching our children? To make immediate assumptions about a violent incident before any facts are revealed?***
The Bethel Advocate Question 4: You indicate your solutions to discuss with students “the event” … “for what it was” … what event in particular (name exact incident) and please describe “what it was” exactly and how you will discuss this with students.
Dr, Carver response: “I did not have any discussion with any students. I was advising staff if the topic came up during class by students. The storming of the capital was not discussed at the elementary level, unless students brought the topic up. At middle school and high school, the focus, through history classes, was a civics lesson on peaceful transfer of power, the role of free speech, and our constitution.“
***Editor note: We did not say Dr. Carver “had discussions with students,” we were asking her to comment upon what her exact “solutions” were “to discuss with students.” What did she mean by “for what it was” for instance? She never answered this question properly addressing our concerns ***
The Bethel Advocate Question 5: You stated, “Bethel Public Schools does not condone any acts of racism.” Can you state what particular “act of racism” you witnessed, or are referring to in that statement, just to clarify?
Dr, Carver response: “I was talking about it more broadly. As you are aware, we have had several acts of racism in our schools over the past several years. I want to reassure that our students of color feel accepted and included as part of our Bethel Public Schools community.”
***Editor note: When a person specifically names “overt acts of racism” regarding a particular incident, then later says she was “talking about it more broadly” we question that dichotomy.***
The Bethel Advocate Question 6: You said, “Reframe the discussion of what happened to what we can do as a community to 1) ensure we uphold our democracy and constitution”; 2) What citizens can do to appropriately [word missing] 1st amendments right to free speech; and 3) the importance of civility in creating unity.” How do you intend on describing “reframing” and “what happened” and what event(s) in particular are you referring to? What do you plan on instructing students (or community) to do, to keep the rights you mentioned? What methods will you suggest? How do you define “civility” when creating “unity“? What was NOT civility, that you witnessed?
Dr, Carver response: “Again, reinforcing the need to work through a peaceful and legal process (as outlined in our constitution and laws) to work through our differences. Reframing refers to making the discussion less about the actual storming of the capital, but focusing on the mechanisms for citizens to peacefully protest and engage in civil discourse when we have differences.”
***Editor note: How is Dr. Carver making the discussion “less about the actual storming of the capitol” and “more about the mechanisms for citizens to peacefully protest and engage in civil discourse” when she specifically refers to the capitol breach incident and says she was so disturbed about it she could not write about it the night before, and that she was “ashamed to be an American“? This is not in general terms as she indicates.***
The Bethel Advocate Question 7: You stated “you” (parents? teachers? staff?) should “refer students to the administration and PPS staff if you feel that they are having more difficulty processing the events of yesterday.” By what criteria are students judged (is there a printed list?) and exactly what “events of yesterday” specifically are you referring to? In other words, at what point, what signs in the student(s), do you recommend students be referred to “PPS” and what are the credentials of people who decide upon this? Who decides this?
Dr, Carver response: “We asked parents to let us know if they needed support (see letter). Or, if a teacher noticed that a student was having a difficult time.. PPS staff refers to our school counselors, social workers and psychologists. If a child is referred through the school, we always let parents know. They are all certified by the State of Connecticut.”
***Editor note: Dr. Carver did not address the points in the question properly, she did not identify what the actual signs were (criteria) for a teacher judge that a student is “having more difficulty” or at what point it is decided that the student is “referred to our school counselors, social workers and psychologists” and who decides that the student needs this service, and what that person’s credentials are, who observes and treats the students. No criteria kist provided, does one exist?***
The Bethel Advocate Question 8: You stated, “I will be sending out additional communication” and “I know that this day may be difficult.” How will you present that thought to students that the day is “difficult” and what do you mean by “difficult” (how will you describe that to them) and what particular incident/event are you referring to in particular that might upset students, and for what reason?
Dr, Carver response: “See attached letter. Again, the storming of the capital. These images are scary to children and the processing of these images are difficult.”
The letter “attached” that Carver mentions, was her second letter, view below.
***Editor note: How does Dr. Carver present the day’s events (breach of capitol and other events that day, and the aftermath) to the students? Does she SAY “I know that this day may be difficult,” or that it is “scary“, putting that thought into students” minds? Or should she (or teachers) perhaps instead discuss the laws of the United States, how they were broken that day in many ways, how officials handled it, and that we have a justice system to bring the wrong-doers to justice? … and leave how they “process” it to the psychology professionals?***
View a copy of Carver’s second letter issued on January 7, 2021, to “Parents, Guardians and Staff” below, which seems to have a dofferent tone entirely, from the first letter (possibly revised after protests by citizens upon seeing the first letter?) and note her statement, “What are we teaching our children?” Good question! And what exactly does “reinforce a counter-narrative” mean? and what does “there is an appropriate way to express our rights,” mean? Yes, what ARE the schools teaching our children, people who support this petition are obviously are asking. How are the students being guided and advised? Is this Carver letter an example of how politics and current events are handled? Is this appropriate? This os what petition signers want to know.
View a copy of Carver’s second letter issued on January 7, 2021, to “Parents, Guardians and Staff” below:
Citizen comments on petition (only ones that show, there are 107 signatures):
I have been the head of a family who has been attacked by Dr Carver. She blatantly lied to my wife and tried to have my child expelled for a year. Dr Carver is a liar and she has an agenda that does not put the youth of bethel front and center. It is a shame that she is in charge of the youth of our town
These leftist operatives must be stopped on all levels.
Because I don’t believe in the social engineering mindset of School superintendents who try to bend young minds to their way of thinking.
This is so toxic! Do not impose your opinion on others. Especially school related! Shame on you!
A REVIEW OF PAST EVENTS AND ACTION TAKEN by Bethel Public School officials regarding racism, student teachings, crimes, official and other complaints, and discipline:
For example, in review of a past school event, school officials, including Dr. Carver and Bethel High School Principal Christopher Troetti, who were in charge, took NO action after an incident, other than having students write “an essay.” WHAT are they teaching our children?
This incident was where students participated in the “ENOUGH! National School Protest.” Students had suddenly “broken out” of school buildings one morning during school hours, for that protest, even after being warned by school officials not to do so, that there would be consequences for breaking school rules. (Some students that caused property damage were “disciplined” we heard from Troetti, but officials refused to give details of this “discipline.” We were not asking for student names, just officials’ actions.)
During this protest, which happened on March 14, 2018, students left campus after protesting there, and walked to Greenwood Avenue and to the CJH Municipal Center on School Street in town, to continue their protest. This required our Police Department officers to patrol near the students fir hours that day, to keep them safe, which came from taxpayer dollars. Our First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker’s reaction was to praise them and offer to help them register to vote.
Is Doctor Carver also aware of comments made in detail, naming names, by students, alumni and parents, regarding racism in the schools, actions racism allegedly done by teachers in the Bethel Public Schools, at a “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) protest, entitled, “OCCUPY GREENWOOD, Black Lives Matter, March for Justice, March for Peace,” event, held on June 14, 2020 in Bethel? (held at PT Barnum Square then a march down Greenwood Avenue to the CJH Municipal Center lawn).
Did Dr. Carver take any actions to remedy these serious accusations?
Bethel alumni student Jacqueline Chiappetta took it upon herself to form a crusade to “stop racial injustice” and “demand accountability in Bethel Public Schools,” but she kept hitting stonewalling road blocks. Jacqueline Chiappetta graduated from Bethel High School (BHS) in 2015 but along with other alumni and present students of Bethel Public Schools (BPS), she still cares what happens there regarding racial injustice and accountability, she said.
In June 2020 Chiappetta wrote letters to Bethel Public Schools and the Bethel Board of Education, then formed a petition with another letter, “Silence is Violence: Racial Injustice Accountability within Bethel, CT Public Schools.” She stated, in part, “I am writing this letter to you advocating for affirmative actions and reform to be taken within the Bethel Public School system” and more. The letter went on to name specific teachers and administrators allegedly who, “exhibited racism towards fellow minority students and alumni during their time within the Bethel public school system,” Chiappetta said, “As a white alumni, I can wholeheartedly say how disappointed and disgusted I am to learn of what has been endured by my fellow alumni and students within our school system.”
The letter also included 10 “testimonies” from alumni or present Bethel Public Schools students allegedly regarding “a few instances of racial injustice within the Bethel Public School system that alumni and current students have faced and are facing,” referring to some statements that were made at the June 7th Bethel “OCCUPY GREENWOOD, Black Lives Matter” protest and additional “testimonies.”
Finally, the letter included a list of “demands/requests from members of the Bethel community per the Black Lives Matter rally on June 7, 2020.” View letter here.
In over 2 weeks only Dr. Carver had replied to Ms. Chiapetta’s inquiries, Chiappetta told the Bethel Advocate, and that she did not hear back from First Selectman Knickerbocker or State Rep. Allie Brennan at all.
Eventually the letter sent to Chiappetta was the same exact letter sent to “Parents, Guardians, Students, Staff and Community Members” on June 16, 2020, in which Carver listed 20 items, and it read, in part, “Bethel Public Schools has implemented the following actions in the last several years to address issues around equity, systemic racism and unconscious bias.” Below that, was another list of 12 more items in which Carver said they are “committed to continue this work” after “meeting with several graduates and listening to feedback.” A closing paragraph reads, “We want to reiterate, we acknowledge that we can do more to ensure we are not unconsciously reinforcing systems which promote racism or discrimination of any protected groups.“
Ms. Chiappetta told the Bethel Advocate not much has happened to change anything after her initial conversation with Dr. Carver.
It appears people want immediate answers, for situations that have gone on too long and are not properly addressed. This includes a better response and accountability from the schools’ and town government officials, and transparency regarding actions taken by same, and swift actions, along with an evaluation of Superintendent Dr. Carver’s content of communications regarding many issues, and/or her removal.
UPDATE: Note: Editor comments were added on January 14, 2021, 10:27am.
UPDATE: Number of signatures updated from 106=7 to 115 on January 15, 2021, 5:51PM.