If a mother cries for the loss of her 11-year-old son, but there’s no one around to hear, does she make a sound?
The bigoted words of a Wayne Central School Board leader stung Fran Burns, a mom who lost her 11-year-old son, Luke, to suicide last fall. She mustered the courage to speak about it publicly, confronting Vice President Philip McTigue at a school board meeting on May 25.
She ended with, “I was glad to hear from kids in Luke’s class that Hearts for Heroes came and spoke to the kids about bullying and suicide; that the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones’ is incorrect, and it should say, ‘sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can kill me.’ Mr. McTigue . . .your actions and words you displayed on social media have a lasting impression on our community as a whole; most significantly, our children. How can we lead by example when the vice president of the school board cannot do this?”
McTigue had come under fire for a Facebook post in which he verbally slays overweight women.It led to a huge outcry in the community and calls for McTigue to step down. There was even a petition circulating to remove him. But the next board meeting was unusually quiet. There was no packed room, no uproar, no petition.
Just one woman spoke: Fran Burns.
But no one – not one board member responded to Fran’s cries, except with silence. And then, several members went on to provide a laundry list of school-related events, as though to wipe Fran’s message right out of the room.
Nothing happened to McTigue. He’d opened the board meeting with an apology statement emphasizing his Facebook post was a joke.
After board meetings, he’ll go home, be with his family, continue on the school board and at least learn a lesson to keep abhorrent opinions to himself.
Fran will go to a house that is no longer a home, painfully absent her 6th grader, or maybe to the cemetery to talk to Luke’s tombstone, which would give the same reply as the board members.
And life goes on, and people will or won’t learn Fran’s lessons; and I don’t mean anti-bullying – I mean empathy, compassion and respect.
It is not against the rules for a board member to acknowledge someone has spoken.
Fran, you deserve a response. I heard your message. I feel your pain. I want everyone else to hear and feel, too – and to learn.
Love, compassion and courage.
[UPDATE: I am told a petition is still circulating. Only Wayne Central School district residents can sign. If you would like to sign the petition, please contact Cindy Hamel Scheltz through her Facebook page. If you’d like to collect signatures, here is the petition to print.
Please attend the school board meeting on July 6, 2017, in the district office conference room. Sign in to speak, or just be there for support. Bring your signed peitions.]