Rumors have been swirling for a few weeks now about an investigation in the LCSD into the identity of Lebanon Truth. I don’t know the details – nor have I tried to find out – but I want to comment on the fact that it is ongoing, especially in light of the LT posts dealing with it.
Where to start? How about this: IT’S A BAD FRACKING IDEA. If the investigation is about the climate at LHS, that’s fine. But – for the reasons outlined quite well by Tre’ Kennedy here – going after the anonymity of the blogger in this case is not only bad for the morale and future of the district, but will probably be unsuccessful, or at the least massively counterproductive.
So why is there an investigation into the blogger’s identity? I can think of two general reasons, one good and one bad. The good – or at least honest – reason is that someone or several someones actually believe an investigation is a good idea and that outing the identity of LT is similarly a good thing and/or that it will help move the district forward. I don’t think either is true, but I can understand it.
The bad reason is simply that the Alexander/Fandino faction (and understand I use that term loosely) is feeling like they are ascendant and have a lot of power right now, and they want to use that power to get rid of LT.
The other thing, as with many investigations, is that this will increase distrust among the staff. Who is talking about who? What are they saying? Who is the next person to be investigated, and why? None of these things will help move LHS or the LCSD forward. Not only that, but they might decrease the possibility of people speaking out in the future.
In addition, LT has started publishing some of the nastier comments they’ve received in the recent past. While I suspect they’ve been receiving these comments for some time, I am also willing to bet that the number and nastiness of comments they’ve received has increased recently. Frankly, that’s bullshit. For what LT has said, death threats are simply unacceptable. Furthermore, I think there is a connection between the constant badmouthing of LT and the nastiness of the comments. One only has to look at the larger picture nationally to see the connection between speech filled with hate (not hate speech per se) and an increase in threats and actions – the Patriot movement in the 1990s (see McVeigh, Timothy) is one good example; the increase in hate crimes against people of Arab descent and Muslims after 9/11 is another. The point is that the kind of speech that’s going on now creates a negative environment which, again, does not help move the district forward. I cannot emphasize this point enough.
Further, if Lanning is condoning or participating in this investigation because it’s the professional thing to do, then I think he might be making an error. I don’t say that lightly – I hope he has carefully considered not only the professional aspect to this but the political one as well.
The other aspect of this that I want to highlight is that this is another thing happening behind semi-closed doors, and there has been entirely enough of that in the LCSD in the last few years. Better to push things out into the open as much as possible.
UPDATE: In addition to the comment below, someone pointed out to me that the investigation is focused on cyberbullying. This explains things to me, at least partially, but it also raises a red flag: When I was subbing, I heard teachers make fun of students plenty of times. Sometimes there were no students present, and sometimes there were – heck, sometimes the teacher would make fun of a student directly (up to and including calling them stupid to their face; no, I am not making that up, and yes, I wanted to yell at the teacher who did it). Of course, it was all verbal, so there was no record besides, oh, everyone else who heard it. If Lanning is investigating the cyberbullying and takes punitive action but doesn’t investigate anything else, well, that’s a bit of a problem from an equal treatment perspective.
UPDATE 2: It also strikes me that if the problem really is cyberbullying, revealing the identity of LT is not actually necessary, as the main goal(s) would be to end any cyberbullying and/or make amends to those injured. I can see a confidential agreement being reached wherein LT apologizes and/or yanks any relevant material without their identity being discovered, or other practices being changed without punitive action being taken. Of course, if the Board finds out LT’s identity during the course of the investigation, I guarantee Alexander will be too dumb/proud to not tell people who LT is, and the district will shortly owe a bunch of attorneys a lot more money, not to mention that this instance of violating Executive Session rules will likely be followed up on.