Cottage Grove, Education

School board threats halt in-person meeting

COTTAGE GROVE —  “Out of an abundance of caution,” on Monday, the South Lane School District decided to move its school board meeting from an in-person gathering to zoom.

Earlier this week, district staff received a report of a “threat specifically targeting the upcoming South Lane School District school board meeting and some district staff.” 

In a statement released to parents early Monday, SLSD Superintendent Yvonne Curtis said, 

“Students are at the center of our work and, as a community, we model what we want for our students — civil engagement and civil communication. Threats to the school district and our school board are intended to disrupt our ability to educate the children of South Lane. Even when people don’t see eye-to-eye, we are a community, each other’s neighbors, and role models for our students. Threats and intimidation only serve to divide us, putting neighbor against neighbor.” 

She added that the district has “initiated an investigation with the assistance of law enforcement who can help verify the credibility and level of the threat.” 

This comes after last week a school board candidate forum in Cottage Grove turned aggressive. 

“Lately, there have been events that have made people feel unsafe and adult behaviors have created these conditions and those responsible need to think about the message that we’re sending to our children, our teachers and our families,” said Bruce Kelsh, former Bohemia Elementary Principal, during the meeting. “I watched the security tapes from the community center and was appalled by what I saw. That kind of behavior does not reflect the best values of our community. And that bad behavior needs to stop. It creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation with our community and in our schools.” 

Curtis assured parents there is no danger to South Lane schools, students or their staff.

Gary Mort, a SLSD Board member said that “credible threats were made.”  

“Whatever was seen, read, or experienced is put in the context of the last five years and I trust the district’s judgment,” Mort said. 

Emily Quindry, president of the South Lane Education Association, a labor organization that represents teachers, spoke up during the meeting. 

“Last week it was reported to me by many South Lane Educators that an event related to the school board elections turned violent and required police intervention,” she said. “And while we have differing opinions, violence is never the answer.” 

She went on to read a statement from the SLEA Board, stating: 

“The SLEA honors and values the respect and dignity of all students. This language is the newly bargained language in our collective bargaining agreement. It’s the responsibility of the signers of the contract to hold each other accountable to this contract language. This means all teachers, administrators and elected school board members in the South Lane School District. 

“We work to maintain an environment that welcomes all ethnicities, countries of origin, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities and disabilities, all languages and all ages,” the statement continues. “We expect that the superintendent administration and the school board will comply with the collective bargaining agreement and all of our policies to ensure that all schools are safe for our students and staff.” 

No further details around the meeting threat have been released.