MILLINOCKET, Maine — An AOS 66 school board member has been accused of unethical conduct for reposting on Facebook a link to a video of a fight at Stearns High School that ended with a middle school girl suffering serious injuries.
In a letter to Great Northern School System AOS 66 Chairwoman Dawn York dated Wednesday, Jan. 30, Millinocket School Committee Chairman Kevin Gregory said it was “unfortunate” that the AOS board member “felt it was appropriate to post a video of minors from a neighboring community engaging in a violent and disturbing activity.”
“We are troubled by this unethical behavior of a school board member, especially from a neighboring community,” Gregory wrote. “This kind of activity only exacerbates the problem. His behavior is counterproductive and we hope his actions will not be repeated.”
In a Facebook posting dated Jan. 22, the date the fight occurred, Medway School Committee Vice Chairman Greg Stanley — who is a member of AOS 66, which serves East Millinocket, Medway and Woodville — posted a link to the video to another Facebook member’s page.
Under the posting, he wrote, “I thought this only happened at Medway [Middle School] & Schenck [High School]?” — apparently in response to someone else’s claim that similar incidents do not occur in Millinocket schools.
Millinocket school officials believe the AOS 66 board member found the video in an existing post and reposted it, Gregory said, though he declined to identify the board member. Gregory would only comment on that Saturday by saying that the letter is directed to only one AOS board member.
York did not immediately return an email requesting comment on Saturday and Sunday. Fellow AOS 66 board member Jennifer Murray of East Millinocket believes the letter does refer to Stanley.
“I did not see any or hear of any other AOS board member posting video of the fight,” said Murray, who criticized Stanley for his posting.
Stanley would not comment on whether the letter refers to him. He said he found the video link posted on his personal Facebook page and then reposted it to someone’s else’s page. His spreading of the video ― which has since been removed from Facebook and YouTube ― “wasn’t [done] to be malicious. It was posted to prove a point.” He declined to say what the point was. “I am not going to keep stirring this …,” he said.
Stanley denied his posting was unethical because he was acting as an individual, not as a school committee member, when he did it. Under state school board law, individuals act as board members only when meetings or other official activities are in session, Stanley said.
“The Millinocket school board has no say over what we do here,” Stanley said. “I am speaking personally, not as a board member. … You know, the old freedom of speech thing?
“And I wasn’t trying to disparage or pick on any kid,” Stanley said.
Murray said it was inappropriate for Stanley to post or repost the video.
“I was appalled that he would post something like that,” said Murray. “As a parent of a child, I can’t imagine posting something that was meant to bully someone else’s child. As a school board member, I wonder, why would he do that? Just to make another school system sound bad?
“I know why kids would post that,” she added, “but I don’t know why an adult would do that.”
On Stanley’s Facebook page, Murray answered the question Stanley left under the video — about incidents like the fight happening only at Medway Middle School or Schenck High School — by writing “Greg, it happens everywhere. The difference is how it’s handled.”
Several students were suspended for as many as 10 days for the fight at Stearns, school officials have said. A 13-year-old middle school girl suffered eye damage and a broken nose when a 16-year-old Stearns high school junior kicked her in the face, according to school officials. Middle and high school students attend classes in adjacent buildings at Stearns.
According to school officials and the girl’s mother, the girl was approached by another eighth-grader in a school hallway after the last class of the day. The two girls exchanged punches and were grappling in a classroom when the 16-year-old kicked the victim as the other girl held her bent over.
Two other students recorded the incident and later posted videos to Facebook, they said. The videos were apparently pulled from the site, but officials have copies of them, the girl’s mother has said.
Police have finished their investigation of the incident and await review from prosecutors, while the Millinocket School Committee is due to discuss the fight in a special executive session at 5 p.m. Tuesday, school officials have said.
In the letter to York, Gregory described the fight as “an isolated incident” that “in no way reflects the culture of Stearns Junior-Senior High School.”
“We work hard to provide a safe, nurturing educational environment and we have zero tolerance for that kind of conduct,” Gregory wrote. “We feel strongly that our communities should be working more closely together to ensure the best education for all of our students, not engaging in activities that cause animosity.”
Stanley has been a leading member of the Medway School Committee for many years, including as board chairman. Under the AOS system, residents of East Millinocket, Medway and Woodville elect residents to serve on the school committees for their towns, and committee members belong to the AOS board that oversees the schools of the three towns.
Stanley served on a committee of town and school leaders who studied consolidating Millinocket’s school system into AOS 66. Stanley was among Katahdin-region leaders who opposed consolidation with Millinocket, calling the consolidation plan flawed and incomplete.
The four towns used to be consolidated under Superintendent Sara Alberts from 2004 until she retired in 2009. Since then, East Millinocket, Medway and Woodville leaders opted to no longer share a superintendent with Millinocket, but continue to combine several educational programs and other offerings with that town.
Since the state’s new school consolidation law went into effect, attempts to return the four towns to a single school system or administration have twice failed.
Follow BDN writer Nick Sambides Jr. on Twitter at @NickSam2BDN.