Microphone in conference hall. Thatree Thitivongvaroon/Getty Images
A Massachusetts student talking about bullying she experienced was shouted over by a parent at a board meeting.
A parent referred to high schooler Mackenzie Atwood’s claims of bullying as “the indoctrination.”
The exchange at the meeting on Tuesday is not an isolated incident, the district’s superintendent said in a statement.
An openly gay Massachusetts student sharing her experiences with bullying at a school board meeting on Tuesday was left in tears after she was shouted over by a woman from the audience who called it “indoctrination.”
Mackenzie Atwood of Franklin High School explained at the board meeting that she had been bullied because of her sexual orientation.
Atwood said she’s heard from fellow classmates who have been called homophobic and racial slurs in the hallways.
But shouting from the audience interrupted her, as school committee chair Anne Bergen banged a gavel and called for the audience to let Atwood speak.
“It is extremely disgusting that you can look me in the eyes and say that I’m not being oppressed at this school,” Atwood said as she broke down.
A woman in the background then shouted, “This has to stop. This is the indoctrination.” Atwood tearfully yelled in response that there is “no such thing as the gay agenda” as Bergen kept banging her gavel.
Bergen called a pause to the meeting moments after, later telling people in the audience to let the teenagers speak.
“I do not ever, ever want to ask anyone to leave, but this meeting will be conducted respectfully,” she said. “There will be no shouting out from the crowd. That is not how we ever, ever conduct meetings in this building.”
The exchange began roughly 41 minutes into the meeting:
Atwood’s mother, Laura, told local news station WBZ that it’s “sad that we have adults acting that way.”
Mackenzie said that people need to become “more educated about respecting people’s identities.”
In the aftermath of the raucous meeting, district superintendent Sara Ahern called the disruption”appalling” and a violation of the district’s “core values of a safe and inclusive environment.”
Ahern also said the incident is not an isolated one.
“Bias-based behavior is permeating layers of the community,” she said in a statement. “As adults, I implore you to be mindful of your behavior as you serve as important role models.
“Our children are watching,” she added.
Drama at school board meetings has reached a boiling point in recent weeks as the once-mundane occasions have become increasingly unruly.
Debates over the teaching of “critical race theory,” mask and vaccine mandates, and the rights of transgender students have become hotly contested issues in districts and communities across the country.
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