By Steve Trubilla
"If he enters school property without cause, he will be arrested for trespassing," is a quote from an email sent by the Franklin County Schools public information officer to school principals, and others, including the Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement.
Additional text includes, "is looking to collect statements, information, and opinions regarding school safety - do not comment."
If you read these statements and know nothing else of what happened, you may be asking, what did this person do? And was it so terrible that the Franklin County School system felt it necessary to issue a policy for his arrest if he entered school property? And who is he?
You may even think what was done is a good thing. Surely, such action would not be taken without good cause. Well read on, you may find at the end of this story you may feel differently.
I am the person that message was aimed at.
So, you may be wondering, what outrageous or even criminal things did I do to earn such special attention?
This is a good and fair question.
It is exactly what I asked when I learned of this. I say learned of it, because I was never notified about what amounts to a "be on the lookout" (BOLO) that had been issued by the Franklin County School system against me. Nor had I ever been told, or had it been even indicated I was not to enter school property, or ask questions.
While attending a gathering, and having a conversation that included the school system, a public official shared with me that this had been done.
Initially, I did not take it seriously, and thought he was joking. On its face it was ridiculous.
At that time, I mentioned I was planning on attending a school board meeting. The official then said to me words to the effect, "no, I am serious, you may want to be careful."
I decided not to attend the school board meeting and instead followed up on what the official told me; glad I did.
This set into motion a series of events for me to confirm or disprove what I had been told. Ultimately, under NC Freedom of Information statutes, I obtained a copy of the above-mentioned message, confirming what I had been told was true.
To provide some background and insight, this was all set into motion when parents contacted me about an intruder that was found to be in Bunn High School in September of 2014.
If you would like to read more on this, I invite you to revisit the Oct. 2, 2014 edition of this paper under my column, "A classic case of shoot the messenger." You can also find the article at this link: http://www.paperbullets.us/the-stories/a-classic-case-of-shoot-the-messenger.
So, back to what did I do? The short answer is I was asking questions. Simple, but important questions that parents wanted answered. Some people were and remain very unhappy with me doing so.
I did not break any laws. I made an appointment and went to Bunn High School to ask the questions. I find I may have broken a school rule by entering the wrong door. The door I entered was in common use, and not properly secured. In fact, students were in the practice of propping the door open to move about campus.
At the time this surfaced, my reply to many parents was, "Why don't you just get with school officials and ask the questions?" I was told they were worried about possible retaliation. I did not see why they should be, but the issue had captured my attention, so I decided to look into it.
Little did I know just how valid their concern about retaliation was! Not only was the above email sent out about me, but there was a real effort made to have me sanctioned. In addition to this, the email contained information that was patently false.
Space in this column does not allow for me to publish the entire referenced email. I may post it to my website with further discussion on it.
This begs the question of why was this done? It does not make any sense.
What I have since learned, I feel, speaks to a much broader narrative of absolute control and bullying. I touched on this a few weeks ago with an article titled, "Enduring the vision of tear-filled eyes."
Having recently met with school officials to discuss this, I can report the Superintendent of Franklin County Schools, Lisa Martin, and Gil Johnson, chairman of the school board, have shared that they have zero tolerance of bullying, and or abuse of any kind, at any level.
They clearly stated that if this is going on, it must be reported for them to act on it. Given my personal experience, I understand why people are not coming forward. I pointedly expressed this to them.
I can tell you with little to no reservation there are teachers being bullied in our schools. I have personally spoken with some of them.
No one goes into teaching to get rich. We may not be able to pay them as well as we would like, but we must do all we can to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity.
Gathering teachers in a room, in front of their peers, and threatening their job/careers is wrong. That is not leadership or mentoring. It is intimidation and bullying.
Our teachers are not broken, the system is. When they have the courage to stand against abuse, do not shoot the messenger.
There is much to do on this. Will you take a stand? "Together we are many."