School Cover-ups Must Not Be Tolerated ~ VALLEY PATRIOT EDITORIAL, Nov. 2015

Last month, The Valley Patriot broke three exclusive stories on-line concerning cover-up situations in the Methuen and Lowell Public School systems.

martin-todayFirst: Lowell High School Headmaster Brian Martin and his administrative staff tried to cover up the fact that Lowell School Committeeman Steve Gendron’s son, Chris, was engaged in racist behavior at school. Gendron’s son made racist comments in a text message to his friends about a black student who defeated him in a race for class president. Another student posted the message on social media, where Chris’ friends began to respond with other racist messages.

Two days later, having not notified the superintendent, Headmaster Martin suspended all the students involved except School Committeeman Gendron’s son. Coincidentally, Chris Gendron was allowed to run in a track meet the night that the other students were on suspension. It wasn’t until the day after the track meet that Gendron’s son was suspended as well.

While Martin may have a good explanation for that, what he has no explanation for is why he told the Lowell Sun that he could not release the names of the racist students involved in the matter because, he said, they were all under age. Lowell School Committeeman Steve Gendron’s son, Christopher, was 18 years old at the time.

Headmaster Martin lied. It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t an oversight. It was an outright lie. Every school keeps records of the birth dates of their students. It may be no surprise to learn that Gendron is a supporter of Brian Martin, and has been since Gendron was on the city council and Martin was the City Manager.

Martin should have been fired the minute it came to light that he lied to the public and covered up for his School Committee supporter in the middle of an election. But, given the insider’s club that is Lowell politics, it’s no surprise that Martin is still the headmaster. Martin should be fired.

SECONDLY: Methuen School Superintendent Judy Scannell tried to cover up the arrest of a Methuen High student who threatened to shoot up the school and commit a mass murder of Methuen school children. That incident happened on Monday, October 19th.

Two days later, when The Valley Patriot learned about the school shooting threats, we gave Scannell a chance to come forward with the information and she complied with our request.
But, two days after that, Scannell had apparently learned nothing from the first incident. On October 23rd, a pair of students at the Tenney Middle School were arrested (at the school) for making similar threats to shoot children and blow up the school.

Again, Scannell covered up and made no public comments and did not notify the press. She did, however, authorize a very misleading recorded call to parents saying that an “incident” had happened, with no detail of the threats to murder children or blow up the school.

As of the minute we went to print (November 10th), Superintendent Scannell has yet to notify the public or the press of her students’ arrests at the school, or the details of students’ threats to kill other children.

This must not be tolerated.

We left out many details on both of these school cover-ups for space reasons. (The Lowell details are below. The Methuen Details are on page 12). But, make no mistake about it, the cover-ups in both of these cases were extensive, involved more than just Martin and Scannell, and were a purposeful, planned deceptions on the public.
While we understand how educators are tempted to conceal information that casts their school system in a bad light, they cannot be allowed to forget that they work for the public, and answer to the public.

Both Brian Martin at Lowell High, and Superintendent Scannell in Methuen have done grave harm to their respective school districts. The public needs to have confidence in the educators who care for their children. People also needs to know that parents and the public will be informed when a crime is committed or an incident takes place that involves our public school children.

It also cannot be overlooked that both of their respective school committees have also done grave harm by not publicly condemning these acts of deception and demanding these educators be held accountable for what they did … or more accurately, what they didn’t do.

While Martin should clearly be fired for covering up and lying to the public, we believe Superintendent Scannell, (who is retiring next year) should be allowed to retire, but should be harshly, and publicly reprimanded by the Methuen School Committee. They represent the very public that was deceived. They also need to send a very strong message to Scannell’s soon-to-be replacement, that deceptions and cover-ups like this are unacceptable and will have public consequences.

We are not surprised by Headmaster Martin’s behavior, as he has long been a political hack in Lowell. We are also not surprised that he still has his job.

But, we are very surprised and disappointed that a woman with such a distinguished and accomplished career in education like Judy Scannell, someone we have long admired, would choose to end her career as the least transparent school Superintendent Methuen has had in the last 40 years.