Letter to the editor: Now that the grounds of Hamilton have been turned from greenery to dirt, and the new school boundaries have been enacted, I find it important to bring attention to what I consider to be a critical concern for Moline residents as a whole. As most of you know, the nation faces a crisis in public schools. The focus of this crisis involves the issue of bullying. According to the www.stopbulling.gov website, a bully is defined as an individual who uses his/her power to control or harm others repeatedly. Bullying may occur in the workplace, in a school, on the playground, or while engaged in the democratic process. While it is occurs routinely throughout our day, it is not always recognized for what it is – a form of intimidation to demean or control the actions of others. As a teacher educator, I make certain to ensure that my soon-to-be-teacher students clearly recognize the signs to prevent the disenfranchisement of others, and to immediately intervene to counter the harm such actions cause.
For the last 4 months, I have carefully followed the Moline School Board’s actions regarding the closures of Ericcson and Garfield. I have watched a supposed democratic process turn autocratic, and have watched as said Board has modeled an intolerance for community input. The first public meetings appear to have interfered with the agenda of the Board and the Superintendent of the District – to the point of first increasing police presence, then restricting input, and finally muzzling input through the implementation of a rigid adherence to Robert’s Rules of Order. Rather than appreciate the contributions of the impacted community and select colleagues (Ben McAdams, respected former Moline Superintendent and Bob Tallish, a respected faculty member at Augustana), Ms. McElyea ( a non-educator) and Dr. Moyer (current Superintendent) have waged ‘civilized warfare’ in silencing those who disagree with the long-term plans of the District. Most disconcerting is the fact that three school board members have sufficient background in education and sociology (C. O’Brien – sociology; Ratzburg, former teacher, Dyer, doctoral degree in education) to recognize that the socio-cognitive modeling (Bandura’s theory) currently put in place suggests to impressionable youth in the District that ‘bullying’ is acceptable for the greater good of the community.
I would hope that District policy prohibits one individual or a group of individuals from forcing their will or desires on others. For example, If the Student Government at Moline High opted to negate the identity of a select group of students at the high school by silencing them during discussions, I would hope that Dr. Moyer would intervene quickly and decisively. I suspect that the decision to increase police presence and finally to disallow for meaningful input has a lot to do with the impacted families. If the schools to be closed involved more affluent/power positioned parents would this action have been taken quite so quickly? I suspect not. I challenge the School Board to carefully consider the model they are portraying to the students enrolled in the District. We want to foster contributing members of society – individuals who can coherently participate in the democratic process. Instead, at least to this observer, the District is encouraging an environment in which some individuals feel intimidated and demeaned, while others with more power dictate an ever-changing set of operational rules. While it may take longer to achieve the goals, PLEASE consider the input beyond just shutting people up or rolling your eyes – if for no other reason than to ‘teach’ our youth civil discourse and decorum.