Bangor Public Schools cancels community workshop in response to videos

Posted at 9:28 PM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 21:56:39-05

BANGOR, Mich. — It had taken Lucas Koening and Chaylynn Bursley weeks to plan a public workshop with Bangor Public Schools. They came up with the idea after a recent school board meeting where the two videos circulating around town were discussed.

One video, shot with someone's phone, showed a few teachers and a staff member allegedly playing an inappropriate game at a local tavern. The other was of a teacher duct-taping a student during class at the high school. Parents and the community were outraged.

“The general consensus was we needed to bring those concerns to the school board in a way that they can acknowledge those concerns, respond to those concerns and basically talk this is out,” said Koening about the meeting. “The only way that we’re going to make progress and move forward in a positive direction is to talk about it.”

In response to the meeting and fallout, Koenig and Bursley created the Facebook group Vikings Against the Bangor PS School Board to fight for change within the district. They moved forward with their idea, peddling it back and forth with the school board and the superintendent, and eventually set a date for Monday March 6. They immediately let everyone in the group know about it. However, all that changed by the weekend.

“On Friday I received a call from the school board president,” said Koenig during an interview at a restaurant in downtown Bangor. “He informed me that there was some concerns over the legality of having this forum.”

He was told that one of the school board members contacted the Michigan School Board Association about the conducting the meeting and the response that person received was unfavorable.

“I explained to him that it was very important to have this meeting,” said Koening. “The public needs to have this meeting. He said he would get with the lawyer and talk about it and he was still waiting to  hear back. He had a call into him earlier in the week.”

Koenig said he called the president again Monday morning for an update and learned that they still had not spoken. The president was going to call the lawyer that day. In the meantime, Koenig sent him the Open Meetings Act which allows the public to hold such forums.

“I know of no workshop that was scheduled,” said attorney Robert Huber, who’s been in constant contact with the superintendent and administrative officials in the district. “There was no regularly scheduled meeting and there was no special meeting for this type of workshop.”

Huber, whose Lansing-based firm represents 400 districts in the state, said in a phone interview with FOX 17 that Monday was the first he’d heard about it. However, he and other attorneys typically advise against such meetings as they violate the Open Meetings Act. He instead recommended that people attend the regularly-scheduled school board meetings, especially if they’d like to talk about the videos, particularly the first one.

“The real story is that these teachers were talking about their colleagues,” said Huber about the subjects in the first video who have all since resigned. “When you view it in that context, certainly the conduct was inappropriate but that’s quite different than using student names which did not happen.”

Bursley said he and the group have been working tirelessly to make sure changes happen within the schools since those videos surfaced. But teacher’s displaying questionable behavior, he said, is nothing new.

“Even when these instances are coming to light through social media, You Tube and everything else, similar circumstances have been going on since I was there,” said Bursley. “The issues have been tabled for so long throughout the years, it’s just people are fed up.”

The group is currently working to reschedule the meeting. Koenig said some parents have spoken to him about keeping quiet out of fear of retaliation. But that’s all the more reason, he believes, to have the meeting to help soften the lines of communication between the community and the school district.

“We can all work together instead of being separated because right now you have separate groups that are trying to head in different directions,” said Koenig. “We need to find a common goal and start moving towards it.”