Accomack School Board Hears Litany of Complaints from Parents

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By Stefanie Jackson – The majority of the Accomack County school board meeting Oct. 19 was spent by parents and concerned citizens who brought forth numerous issues during the public comment period, including school lunches, dress codes, bullying, student safety, and the school board’s proposed policy on the treatment of transgender students.

Connie Burford questioned why there had been no delay opening schools the morning of Friday, Oct. 15, considering the foggy weather conditions.

She said that Accomack school buses begin their morning routes as early as 5:10 a.m., in “pitch black,” and fog further decreases visibility.

Burford noted that on a foggy Halloween morning in 1997, in Easton, Md. (approximately 50 miles from Salisbury, Md.), a tractor-trailer struck a school bus, killing the school bus driver and injuring all 39 students onboard.

The Accomack schools employee who is responsible for implementing an inclement weather delay “fell short” on the job Oct. 15, she said.

Burford also asserted that Accomack’s school dress code makes no sense because an Accomack student recently was sent home for wearing pants with a hole in the knee, yet the proposed transgender student policy would allow a biological male student to wear a skirt in school.

Brittany Handy also had two complaints. Due to COVID-19, parents currently are not allowed to get bus passes for their children when alternative transportation is needed in the afternoon. Handy was unaware of the change and had to take an unauthorized break from work to visit her child’s school and figure out how her child would get home one afternoon.

While waiting in the office, she overheard the principal, who “wasn’t very friendly” when she told a student where to sit, and the principal said, “These children are bad.”

“You choose your career. … If that’s not your passion, then you shouldn’t be here,” Handy said. “If you’re not compassionate about our children … then why should you continue to take that role?” she asked.

Furthermore, she said, the principal was unhelpful with the transportation issue and told Handy she should have prepared better as a parent.

“As a parent, I need to make sure that my child has everything that she needs,” Handy said. “As a parent, I’m a taxpayer. I don’t receive any type of assistance because I choose not to sit home. As a parent, I went to work and my tax dollars were clocked for that bus that she could not ride. … I’m not OK with that, as a taxpayer and as a parent,” she said.

A New Church parent said, “There’s a lot of bullying going on in schools and it needs to be resolved. When my child comes home from school in tears because I have to come pick her up because a child is known to be bullying,” and school authorities do not stop it, “that’s not OK.”

Tyki Broadwater said Accomack school lunches are “horrible,” particularly when Lunchables are served.

She also criticized Accomack schools for prohibiting students from talking during lunchtime, presumably to limit the possible spread of COVID-19.

School employees can talk during their lunchtimes and “people in prison can talk during lunchtime,” she said.

Robert Snyder voiced his opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for children to attend school. (The Accomack school division has not proposed a student vaccine mandate at this time.)

He also said he had planned to bring along a student to speak during the public comment period, but she backed out at the last minute, saying, “It doesn’t matter. It won’t change anything.”

“You make a child feel that their voice isn’t heard,” Snyder said. “You’re supposed to be building leaders. You ain’t building leaders like that, unless you have a handful that are selected,” but that isn’t “where great ideas come from – they come from every child.”

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