After months of silence, the co-chairs of Pentz Elementary's School Advisory Council (SAC) are speaking out about their principal.
In a statement, SAC co-chair Laura Brown, expressed dismay over the handling of Principal Rebecca Smart's complaint against Bayview Principal Lamar Eason.
"As parents we are very concerned about the impact this situation has had on our principal. It has been disappointing and upsetting to see her maligned by rumour and innuendo as information was spread clearly in an attempt to discredit and retaliate for her complaint,” says Brown.
Smart filed a complaint against Eason last October. According to documents obtained by our newsroom, an investigation by Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper found Eason violated the South Shore Regional Centre for Education's Respectful Workplace Policy by spreading salacious rumours about her and keeping a list tracking her whereabouts.
Allen Sullivan, co-chair of the Pentz SAC, says the SAC became concerned after rumours about Smart started circulating over the course of several months.
"Despite a supposed "gag order" some very nasty comments started coming out via social media from some individuals in (the Bayview) community. I guess the expectation of confidentiality did not pertain to that community," says Sullivan in a statement to our newsroom.
He believes the situation has had a negative impact on students, staff, and parents at Pentz, as well as the Smart family.
"Mrs. Smart's privacy and the privacy of her husband and two young children were invaded by lies and malicious comments ... What most people don't know is that through all of this, her mom became seriously ill and passed away in February. She has not been able to grieve and still she stays strong and refuses to give in and to stand up for her right of privacy and a safe work place free from harassment. There are a lot of questions that could and should be asked but won't be asked because we know they will get swept under the "this is an HR matter" mat and won't get answered," reads his statement.
Brown expressed frustration over some community members’ reactions after Eason was placed on administrative leave for three weeks following Smart's complaint.
Some parents launched a campaign of support for Eason over the fall and winter. Our newsroom also recently discovered a website – wesupportlamar.com, which brings users directly to the Bayview Community School's official website.
"We will not engage in similar personal attacks and spread information through media or other outlets, however, we will continue to stand and show our support to Rebecca. We hope that the situation will be addressed and no retaliation or silencing (of) victims will be tolerated - by others including the Education Centre leaders,” says Brown.
Brown is calling on the SSRCE to provide Smart and other complainants with more support and protection.
"She had to endure such attacks and when the investigation was complete and supported her claims nothing was done to address the harms she experienced nor dispel the allegations and lies spread by others including the parent group and administration at Bayview," says Brown.
Meanwhile, Sullivan posed a question to those involved in the situation:
"The questions I will ask of those individuals (and those are just a few) in the other school community and regional office is this - after looking in the mirror, ask yourself ‘if this happened to me how would I react?’ If you're honest with yourself, I suspect that you would do exactly what Mrs. Smart did - go through the proper complaint process and hope that laws and policy protect you and hopefully, at the end of the day, there will be no further repercussions to the victim," he says.
Brown says SSRCE Executive Director Paul Ash has not contacted their SAC, nor has the SAC reached out to the SSRCE. Brown pointed out that Ash did speak to the Bayview Home and School Association after CKBW Radio/LighthouseNOW released a story about Smart's complaint on May 6.
According to a Facebook post made by Bayview Home and School Association chairperson Kara Turner two weeks ago, Ash emailed Turner after she reached out to him, saying he thought the situation was resolved and things had settled down. Ash told Turner he couldn't comment on the situation too much as they are conducting an investigation and will take appropriate action to "address the issue."
We reached out to Ash to ask him if he had been in contact with any of the parents from Pentz as well. Ash would only say that the SSRCE "respond to all emails sent by parents within our region."
We also reached out to Bayview's SAC for comment but did not receive a response before publishing.
Story by Brittany Wentzell
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