Cumberland Times-News

Local News

June 2, 2014

BOE candidates share views on sexting at forum

Many agree policies need to be in place to deal with issue

— CUMBERLAND —  The seven candidates for the Allegany County Board of Education shared their views on a variety of topics Monday ranging from the new Allegany High School, Common Core, county relations and funding to consolidation, sexting and other cell phone abuse by students.

With the primary election scheduled for June 24, the candidates participated in the forum held in the continuing education building at Allegany College of Maryland.

Organized by the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce and WCBC radio, the three-hour event was broadcast live.

One candidate faces elimination in the upcoming primary, leaving six candidates to vie for one of the two open board seats in November’s general election.

Host of the event was WCBC’s Dick Yoder and Paul Mullen, with Mullen acting as moderator. Asking questions of the candidates were William DuVall of Carpenters Union Local 1024, Jeremy Irons, project manger for Carl Belt Inc. and a member of the Chamber or Commerce board, and Brian Gowans of WCBC.

The candidates for the board are Bill Davis, Lorelee Farrell, Wayne Foote, Tammy Fraley, Sara-Beth James, Laurie Peskin Marchini and Jim Smith.

The candidates were asked how they could help the BOE improve the strained relations with the Allegany County Commission, a primary source of funding for the board.

“You must be able to communicate with each other, but you must come to the table with an open mind and come up with new ideas. The focus must be on the student,” said Fraley.

James said that having improved relations is a challenge due to the way Maryland’s funding formula is set up.

“We are advocating for money for the school system and they’re running the county as a business. I think the commissioners have interest in our students and I believe we have the same interest in moving this county forward,” said James.

Marchini said working together as partners and not opponents would move everyone in the right direction while being more honest and communicating more.

Gowans asked “Recently, there has been a sexting scandal in several schools, which is inappropriate texts between students, and it’s being handled in an administrative level. Is this something you should have a say in?”

James said as a current (incumbent) board member she would not comment on the specific issues at Fort Hill. She said that technologies will continue to increase and present challenges for educators.

“Electronic communication becomes your electronic resume. It stays with you the rest of your life. We as adults need to set an example for our children and work on teaching what the consequences are putting things on electronic mediums,” said James.

“I’m not a big fan of kids having cell phones in school. If this is taking place at home at night and not at school I’m not sure how a school administrator is expected to deal with it. It’s a societal problem not a school problem,” said Smith.

“Sexting is a form of bullying. We need to expand our middle school and elementary school programs in teaching communication skills, conflict resolution and values clarification. It needs to be taught that it is a crime,” said Davis.

“School is a place where you are going to deal with behavior issues. You are dealing with kids and kids sometimes learn things the hard way,” said Farrell.

She said the parents and schools need to work closely on the topic.

“I see a decay in kids not going to church. The cell phone issues have gone completely overboard. There have to be some policies coming up. All I see is heads down and phones out,” said Foote.

“We need to set a policy and adhere to it. Work with parents and community to educate about technology. We need to bring in the state’s attorney and the people can say ‘this is what could happen to you and it’s illegal,’” said Fraley.

“It has to be dealt with by the administration. That is the proper channel. We can’t comment on this at this point because we may be hearing it in a hearing on an appeal at any point,” said Marchini.

Marchini said there is a communication policy in place.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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