February 28, 2020
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Social media comments cause school cancellation in Howland

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Superintendent of Schools Michael Wright, seen here at a SAD 31 school board meeting at Penobscot Valley High School in March 2016, opted to cancel school on Monday due to what he described as “comments made on social media.”

HOWLAND, Maine — Comments posted on social media caused the cancellation of school for Howland-area School Administrative District 31 and the issuance of a restraining order against the father of a high school student on Monday, Superintendent of Schools Michael Wright said.

The restraining order against the father, whom Wright declined to identify, was issued after the man became embroiled in a dispute with Penobscot Valley High School Principal Carol Marcinkus on Friday and posted comments about the school system and its administrators over the weekend, Wright said.

“Although the state police have determined there was ‘no criminal activity’ and no ‘criminal threat,’ the comments were nonetheless disturbing, and we did not know what else we might learn, so we erred on the side of caution and kept everyone home,” Wright said in an email to SAD 31 staff on Monday night.

“Our plan will be to return to school tomorrow now that the state police have evaluated the situation and [we have] followed through with their recommended action,” he added.

Friday’s dispute concerned guardianship and who can sign documents on behalf of a school student, among other things, Wright said. The superintendent described the man’s social media postings as “general comments about the school district and members of the district staff.”

The two events “led me to decide that it was in the best interest of the school system that nobody attend school [Monday] until there was some resolution, which is a very general term when it comes to these things,” Wright said.

Wright described the closure of SAD 31’s three schools as a precautionary measure in response to an isolated incident. He said that “authorities were notified, consulted and involved in discussions.”

“The district will continue to monitor and evaluate and review the situation moving forward,” Wright added in a statement released earlier in the day.

Parents who telephoned the Bangor Daily News on Monday indicated that their children or SAD 31 school officials told them that a student “posted threats” to middle school teachers and administrators. But that is inaccurate, Wright said.

State police said they were initially called but determined that no crime had occurred, so school officials were handling the incident. They referred questions to Wright.

As part of the restraining order, the man will not be allowed on to SAD 31 property, including buses, or to attend school events, Wright said. He said he hasn’t yet received a copy of the restraining order but expected that it would remain in force for “the duration of the year or until the school decides to lift it.”

School officials will hold a mediation meeting with the parent to reach a settlement of their differences. No date has been set, Wright said.

SAD 31 serves 517 students in pre-kindergarten to 12th grade from Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Maxfield and Passadumkeag, according to the latest Maine Department of Education statistics.

Its schools are Enfield Station School in Enfield and the interconnected Hichborn Middle and Penobscot Valley High schools in Howland.

 


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