District 300 school board, employees face threats, board president says
Since the start of the school year, Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 Board members and employees have faced threats and insults from a small number of parents, board President David Scarpino said.
These "unacceptable" behaviors have included parents shouting profanities at staff and extending middle fingers to them "in plan view of students," along with sending "disrespectful and threatening emails, voicemail messages and phone calls," Scarpino said at this week's board meeting.
To illustrate the seriousness of the issue, Scarpino read excerpts of messages sent to employees and board members aloud. Some complained about the district's COVID-19 plan, masks and vaccines, and others threatened legal action against the district and teachers.
"I view you as scum," one message said. "Scum that will soon be wiped from existing."
"We are now at a crossroads. Are we going to have a major conflict on our hands? I have an entire army ready to bring the guillotine down," one person wrote. "You're about to receive a very eye-opening lesson."
One message told the recipient that "a little accountability is exactly what you deserve, and I'm getting ready to serve it to you," while another called someone a "corrupt little puppet."
"I hope you're sweating. I hope you're losing sleep," Scarpino read from one message. "And if not, you should be."
Scarpino said Tuesday that effective immediately, District 300 employees no longer will spend time addressing these threats and insults. If a phone call grows "disrespectful," he said, the call will end. Disrespectful voicemails will not be returned, and staff will not respond to insulting emails.
"If unruly behaviors are demonstrated when speaking with a staff member, every District 300 staff member has the right to end the conversation," Scarpino said.
In addition, Scarpino said, law enforcement has been and will continue to be alerted to any threats that arise.
Despite these messages, staff members' work ethic and dedication have not shifted in the past six weeks, Scarpino said.
"These are the same individuals who have spent every single day of their careers in District 300 focused on educating your children, caring for your children and ensuring the safety of your children," Scarpino said. "I am absolutely certain these same individuals will continue to do so every single day for the rest of their District 300 careers."
Scarpino emphasized in his remarks that district employees are not able to resolve issues people have about masks or curriculum taught at District 300 schools. Instead, any issues people have on these topics should be expressed to board members.
"Expressing your frustrations to school district employees about items out of their control in a disrespectful or threatening manner will not be tolerated," Scarpino said. "To our employees who have encountered inappropriate behavior, please know the board of education is truly sorry for any mistreatment you have endured."
District 300 isn't alone in facing increased animosity.
The Cary School District 26 Board rescheduled a meeting this summer after a group of parents acted "disruptive and uncivil" and had the police called on them.
On Thursday, the National School Boards Association asked President Joe Biden for federal assistance to investigate and stop threats made over policies such as mask mandates, likening the vitriol they are receiving to "a form of domestic terrorism," The Associated Press reported.
In their letter to the president, the National School Boards Association documented more than 20 instances of threats, harassment, disruption and acts of intimidation across several states, and also cited an Illinois man arrested in September for allegedly striking a school official at a meeting.