GM board sanctions LGBTQ comments of fellow member

By Stephen Seitz and
Cynthia Prairie

©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Green Mountain board chair Alison DesLauriers explains the board’s feelings about his comments to Mauti, second from left. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The Green Mountain Union High School board sanctioned the comments of one of its own at its regular meeting on Thursday, April 13, as a room full of faculty, staff, students and other board members aired their outrage over comments made at the March 9 meeting by Andover representative Hank Mauti.

That situation was reported by The Chester Telegraph on Saturday, March 11

Mauti found himself in hot water over comments he made about a schoolwide music production known as a “lip dub.” Last November, the students, teachers and staff created a 10-minute music video in which a  students and teachers lip-synched a song and danced, sometimes with school objects and sometimes on the furniture. Mauti found dancing on the furniture to be objectionable. But he also objected to seeing two female teachers dressed in tie-dyed lab coats.

GM student AJ Jackson calls Mauti’s comments inappropriate for a board member who has power over school decisions.

“There were a couple of female teachers with lab smocks on, wearing the colors of the gay and lesbian rainbow thing. I hope that wasn’t involved with taxpayers’ money,” Mauti had said at the March 9 meeting. “That was horrible.”

Most in the audience took offense at that statement. When the public was allowed to comment, transgender student AJ Jackson nervously stood to read his statement, saying that personal opinions are acceptable in private conversations, but “When you are in the seat of someone who holds power over the decisions of this school, it is completely inappropriate and wrong, but even worse when the opinion is heavily discriminatory and homophobic.”

He called Mauti’s remarks “questionable behavior” and a “non-constructive personal opinion,” and said that he was not the only student to find his words “deeply offensive.”

AJ was blunt in his statement, saying that “Mr. Mauti is quite clearly making his own personal homophobic interests known, might I add not the first time.”

GM Associate Principal Mike Ripley shows pride colors at the meeting.

As AJ finished speaking, he was given a standing ovation by the 30 or so teachers, students and parents in attendance.

Library media specialist Jeanie Phillips said, “The faculty at Green Mountain stand for LBGTQ students. We support them. We believe this school needs to be a safe place where any marginalized student doesn’t experience bullying or harassment. We feel that if a board member is making harassing comments about LGBTQ students, they don’t have the best interests of our students at heart, and they should step down.”

Freshman Laurel King, who recently became one of the student representatives to the Green Mountain board, read a statement on behalf of the students. “Beyond teaching film production skills,” she said, “the point of this video was to build a stronger school community and help to knit together the different groups at school. It was also an opportunity to learn about teamwork, timing and coordination. Since everyone in the building participated, it was a chance to highlight the student groups which don’t get much attention as the traditional sports teams do.”

Laurel added that Mauti was mistaken about the lab coats.

“Each grade has a class color, which students wear to pep rallies in order to show school spirit,” she said. “They were wearing tie-dye lab coats because tie-dye is the faculty class color. The fact is, the teachers at Green Mountain are in support of every student here, LGBT included. I believe it is our school’s responsibility to make sure students feel safe in school so they’re able to learn.”

Language Arts teacher Jason Rickles read a statement on behalf of the faculty, stressing that the school should serve and support all of its students.

On behalf of the faculty, teacher Jason Rickles demands respect for all students by the board and administration.

“We as a faculty request, nay, demand, that our upper level administrators and school board members share this desire to maximize learning opportunities for all students,” he said.

Rickles also defended the entire lib dub as a school-wide education project, calling it “a Herculean” task requiring “weeks of pre-planning, hours … of preparation, mapping and remapping a route …. coordination of hundreds of people, technical drill and practice, enormous amounts of equipment preparation  … the dedication of dozens of student leaders and one entire school community.”

For his part, Mauti said his primary concern was the students dancing on school furniture.

“I opened that statement with the fact that I have no problem with the kids doing what they did,” he said. “I thought it was a great project. What upset me, and upset the stockholders of this school, was the abuse of the furniture, jumping on it, dancing on desks, jumping on that couch over there. This whole thing could have been done without doing that goofy stuff. I heard the word ‘safety’ half a dozen times from each speaker, and I don’t think dancing on top of desks and tables is a safe act. It’s an abuse of what the taxpayers gave you. That’s what upset me.”

Mauti responds to the comments of students and faculty. Photo courtesy of SAPA TV

Mauti added that he agreed with the faculty’s sentiments concerning the school’s role. “Everything you said was right,” he said. “That’s the way a school should operate.”

Board chair Alison DesLauriers told Mauti that the students and faculty were speaking of emotional safety, that no one had come to talk about the furniture, but about Mauti’s remarks concerning the tie-dyed lab coats.

“I would think that you should be entertaining an apology for the statements you made later,” she said. “Does that make sense?”

Mauti said he didn’t see why. “I don’t see I should apologize for anything I said, because everything I said was from my heart,” he said. “I don’t have anything against anybody. It’s the abuse of the equipment.”

DesLauriers replied, “When you sit at this table, you are held to a higher standard than when you’re in the public on the sidewalk. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but when we sit here, we’re held to a higher standard. We just finished signing the code of conduct that night, and it talked about respect. Respect for the building, respect for the staff, respect for the students. Your snide comment was completely out of line, and totally unacceptable.”

“That’s what I’d like to see,” Mauti replied, “some respect. That may be somebody’s opinion, but it’s not my opinion. I was talking about the abuse of school property.”

DesLauriers asked for a motion to sanction Mauti’s comments for violating the board’s code of conduct, which the board did without objection from Mauti.

According to Two Rivers Superintendent Meg Powden, a sanction “means that the board recognizes that one member has violated the code of ethics. Because of that violation, the board, Alison in particular, entertained a motion to sanction Mr. Mauti’s comments.” The sanction, she added, will just be “on his record.”

 

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Mr. Mitchell’s comment was edited to remove offensive words and non-pertinent sentences.

  2. Jimmy Mitchell says:

    I know both Alison and Hank.

    Hank just puts out whatever the local loons put out as alternative news.  He means well, he really does, but he’s had a hair … about the T/G kid over at GM for months now. 
    http://www.chestertelegraph.org/2017/03/07/after-long-school-meeting-andover-oks-834000-town-budget/
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/18/us/national-debate-over-transgender-bathrooms-turns-personal-at-rural-vermont-high-school.html

    He’s a Vermont hero among the national far-right set.

    Complaint Against Transgender Student Using Boys’ Restroom Ignites ‘Straight Pride’ Protest at Vermont High School – TheBlaze
    TheBlaze › news › 2016/05/18 › complai…
           May 18, 2016 – Hank Mauti, a school board member, told the Times he wondered why Jackson would feel the need to demand to be allowed to use the boys’ bathroom when there were six single-use …

    As a correction, there was no “straight pride” protest by students at GMUHS. Only Hank and his friends. Typical invention by the nutters.

  3. Stuart Lindberg says:

    Henry Mauti is an Italian, Native American,Catholic retired, senior citizen, U.S. Army veteran, caring husband, loving father and grandfather who gives up his time to run for elected office and voluntarily serve on a local school board.

    He has family and friends who are African American. He and his family also have close friends who are gay.

    I believe Hank’s intention was to raise public awareness about the the chronic and dismal performance of GMUHS students on standardized tests as well as the lack of respect shown toward school property, which is purchased by the overburdened taxpayer.

    Leave it to the militant liberals in this community to seize on a remark he made about rainbow-colored science smocks to smear his name. This allegation that Hank somehow poses a threat to the LGBTQ community at GMUHS is beyond ridiculous.

  4. Betty McEnaney says:

    Thanks to AJ, the teachers, the administration and the board for speaking out in support of the LGBT community and for your efforts in providing a safe and inclusive atmosphere at GMUHS.

  5. Michele Lindberg says:

    I believe GMUHS would be better served to focus on academics. This school is ranked 40th out of 56 high schools in Vermont. The real story here is our students are not getting the education we all pay handsomely for. All of this is a distraction from the actual problem.

  6. Frank Treu says:

    Well, to those of us who know Mr. Mauti, it is not that he makes unacceptable comments, which, once out of his mouth, cannot be taken back (i.e. “the jury will disregard those remarks”; yeah, right!) but that he is, has been, and clearly remains a bully, using his size and ability to rationalize the worst behaviors to hurt others, to no consequences. Has Andover no other adults who will serve on the board?

  7. Margaret Straub says:

    Thank you, Alison, for taking this step and to the staff and students who spoke out, thank you for standing up to Mr. Mauti’s unacceptable comments.