Letter: School critic continues to call for independent investigator after police close case

Editor’s note: The Darien Times does not, has not and will not remove comments from its website unless they are libelous. In the process of converting to a new website platform some of our comments were inadvertently removed. Those comments have been restored and the story is linked here. 

To the Editor:

Just a few years ago, a small group of courageous Darien parents got together to speak out on behalf of some of our most vulnerable children, in order to influence positive change in our community.  That group spoke out at Darien Board of Education meetings, used FOIA and FERPA laws, and eventually uncovered a pervasive and widespread pattern of illegal behavior in the Darien Public Schools.

That group of parents met with great resistance – from other parents, from community members, and especially from the BoE.  The individuals who led the charge were not liked nor welcomed.  They challenged the status quo and made people feel uncomfortable.  Progress took years.  But they fought for, and eventually got, an independent investigation.

Editorial: Darien Place

That independent investigation eventually helped change the district – and our town – for the better.  Back then, The Darien Times played a vital and critical role in helping those special education children in need.

Sadly, we have not learned from the past.  History is repeating itself.  Apparently, we still do live in “Darien Place” – a town that prefers to “cover-up” wrongs, and “blame and shame” anyone and everyone, who has the temerity report them.

Over the past few weeks, I have presented actual documents — not “emailed accusations”, but real, actual documents — from the Darien Board of Education – showing abusive treatment of our students and athletes.  These documents describe a coach physically assaulting a child, a teacher cyberbullying a student on-line, and young girls being forced, in the middle of the night, into a cabin to perform sexual dances against their will, and a father paying girls to do table dances.

No one — not one person — has denied these events occurred.  Because they know — as we ALL know — that they did occur.  They are all documented in actual, real BoE records.  So the only thing the bullies in town can say is: “Go away, Jay.”

The truth is – the silent, VAST majority in town  is terrified to stand up to the town bullies.  They are afraid, with very good reason, that their children will be attacked and destroyed, as these bullies immediately reframe, and make-up, stories about the child victim(s), the child victim’s parents, and anyone who dares to come to their aid.  They bombard social media.  All of this is done in an effort to intimidate, silence and shame the victims and their families.

But I am not afraid.  I am the voice for all of those people in our town – and for all of those children, who are not protected.  I am the voice for change.

I am calling for an independent investigation of these cases.  Not an investigation, where the investigator is hand-picked by the Board of Ed’s attorneys (as was the case in the special education investigation), but a full, complete and legitimate investigation.  The investigator must be truly independent, approved by the victims and their families, and have broad, sweeping authority to look at all available evidence.

Nothing would make me happier than to be able to handover everything I have to an independent investigator.  I would step aside gladly and permit such an investigator to take over, and I am fully prepared to accept the findings of a truly independent investigator— as we all should be.

The editor of this newspaper has seen the actual video of a teacher assaulting a student.  She has seen a teacher cyberbully a student on her paper’s own website.  She has spent multiple hours speaking to a girl forced against her will into a cabin that night.  She has seen, firsthand, the deep and devastating impact these incidents have had on the victims and their families, and even reported on one in another, related context.

This paper got it right in one respect: this abuse IS impacting real people.  It IS impacting real families.  It IS impacting real children.  It IS devastating these children and their families.  I have seen it – and so has the editor of this newspaper.

I call upon The Darien Times to join me and other town officials, who have already spoken out, as well as the countless other parents and families in town too afraid to speak up, and call for an independent investigation.  Instead of removing the comments from your website, which ask for an independent investigation (as happened earlier this week), join those voices – in the interest of our children and families.

Don’t be one of the bullies.“Darien Place” should be a place where ALL children are physically and emotionally safe.  “Darien Place” should be a place where all of our professional education staff should be working to lift children up, not to tear them down.  “Darien Place” should be a place, where parents can send their children off to school or to athletic events and not have to worry that something horrible might happen to their child.

I close by sharing just one of the notes I received this week from a parent in town:  “I thank you, on behalf of Darien families, for your tireless efforts to advocate for the children and expose the ugly truths that threaten this town.”

Please join me in making “Darien Place” a great place to live.

Jay Hardison

11 Nearwater Lane

Mr. Hardison is a member of the Representative Town Meeting and a member of the RTM’s Education Committee.