Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools, Dr. Carver, Addresses ‘Increased Hostility to School Staff and the Spread of Misinformation on Social Media’

Report by Paula Antolini, October 8, 2021, 9:40PM EDT

Message to Parents, Guardians and Community Members from the Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools, Dr. Christine Carver:

“Over the past few months, there have been increased reports, across the region, state, and
country of increased hostility to school staff and the spread of misinformation on social media
which is not only hurtful but not productive in maintaining open communication and the ability
to collectively solve problems. Unfortunately, we are increasingly seeing similar patterns in our
own community and we hope that we can get back to a place of respect, polite disagreement,
and open communication. The concern is not about disagreement with specific incidents,
policies, or programs, but simply the manner in which they are expressed. The Bethel Public
Schools continue to be open to stakeholder feedback and mechanisms to improve our work as
a school system.

“To give specific examples of the seemingly growing issues regarding more open hostility, this
morning I woke up to an email asking me if “…we have lost our minds?” The individual was
referring to a social media post involving an alleged incident regarding a student who was sent
home from school due to a dress code policy violation. This incident did not occur at our Bethel
High School and it is my understanding that the individual posting the complaint lives on the
west coast. There was no inquiry as to the truth of the post or even if it was our school
district. We have had administrators sworn and spit at while directing traffic. Our nurses have
endured verbal hostility for implementing directives from the Department of Health. Even
simple concerns get expressed in a manner that does not promote healthy dialogue.
We know that the pandemic has created a level of stress which makes emotional regulation
difficult. Here are some strategies we believe will get us back to a respectful community while
still being able to express concerns:

• Do not automatically assume information on social media is accurate. If you see
something that you are concerned about or question, simply email or call the
school/district. We are happy to discuss your concerns. Sharing or adding to information
on social media that is not accurate only exacerbates the problem.

• Assume good intentions. Lately, we have increasingly received concerns
expressed in a manner of accusation or hostility without an understanding of the full picture. Before making judgments, it is important to understand context or perspective. Engaging in
an interactive dialogue based on respect will promote problem-solving.

• The pandemic and all of the directives from the Department of Health, State Department of Education,
and Office of the Governor have generated a spectrum of opinions on the topic of mitigation
strategies. That guidance is also constantly shifting. We communicate those mitigation strategies, any
changes that occur, and our understanding of the reasons for those strategies. We have families who
think we are not doing enough to implement mitigation strategies and others who are opposed to the
same strategies. Please continue to respectfully ask questions or express concerns, but understand that
at times we do not have the ability to adjust our practices due to directives. We are proud that we have
kept our schools open and tried to resume a more typical school experience. We believe that this has
been possible by taking a balanced, but safe approach to those mitigation strategies.

• In addition to staff, be nice to each other as parents and members of the community. Model your
conversations, emails, and social media engagement the way you would want your children to interact.”