A Massachusetts student speaking about the bullying she suffered was yelled at by a parent during a board meeting.
One parent called high school student Mackenzie Atwood’s bullying allegations “indoctrination.”
The exchange at Tuesday’s meeting is not an isolated incident, the district superintendent said in a statement.
An openly gay Massachusetts student sharing her experiences of bullying at a school board meeting on Tuesday was left in tears after being yelled at by a woman in the audience who called her “indoctrination.”
Mackenzie Atwood of Franklin High School explained at the board meeting that she was bullied because of her sexual orientation.
Atwood said she overheard classmates who were branded as homophobic and racial slurs in the hallways.
But screams from the audience interrupted her, as school committee chairwoman Anne Bergen hit a hammer and called on the audience to let Atwood do the talking.
“It’s extremely disgusting that you can look me in the eye and say I’m not oppressed in this school,” Atwood said as she collapsed.
A woman in the background then shouted, “This has to stop. This is indoctrination.” Atwood cried out in tears in response that there was “no gay agenda” as Bergen continued to hit his hammer.
Bergen called the meeting a break moments after, later telling people in the audience to let the teens speak.
“I never, ever want to ask anyone to leave, but this meeting will be conducted with respect,” she said. “There will be no screaming from the crowd. This is not how we hold meetings in this building.”
The exchange began approximately 41 minutes after the start of the meeting:
Atwood’s mother Laura told local news channel WBZ it was “sad that we have adults acting this way.”
Mackenzie said people need to become “more educated about respecting people’s identities.”
In the aftermath of the boisterous meeting, district superintendent Sara Ahern called the disruption “appalling” and a violation of the district’s “core values of a safe and inclusive environment.”
Ahern also said the incident was not isolated.
“Bias behaviors permeate layers of the community,” she said in a statement. “As adults, I implore you to be mindful of your behavior because you are serving as important role models.
“Our children are watching,” she added.
The drama at school board meetings has reached a boiling point in recent weeks as once mundane occasions have become increasingly unruly.
Debates over teaching “critical race theory,” the mask and vaccine mandates, and the rights of transgender students have become hotly contested issues in districts and communities across the country.
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