School Board Ignores Mom of Suicide Victim, 11

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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.

[McTigue was traveling in Nashville when he posted this.]

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.

And her words chill you, her grief disables you.

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.]

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32 thoughts on “School Board Ignores Mom of Suicide Victim, 11

  1. Ms. Fran Burns,
    You are one of the bravest people I can think of to speak about such personal pain to aid much needed discussion of a public issue. I cannot imagine the courage you had to summon to sit alone at that table and address the school committee. I’ll bet Luke was a wonderful boy and his absence will leave a hole in this world.
    I am so terribly sorry for you and your family’s loss. Please know there are compassionate people who do care about Luke’s story.

  2. Is it possible to ask the woman seated at the far right of the table, from the viewers’ perspective, to replay this segment when she can give Mrs. Burns her full attention? She was busy reading other materials as Mrs. Burns spoke and as a member of the committee she should be engaged in this issue.

    • It’s not just that board member. Notice Wayne Central School Board President Tim Reynolds (12 o’clock in the video) cannot be bothered to look up, as he (fill in the blank [writes up his grocery list?]). He’s casually doing his own thing, including not giving Mrs. Burns the basic couresy of his attention.

      • I found the lack of attention so incredibly disrespectful, immature and insensitive. Vote these people out of their positions. They have no business being on the school board when they cannot give this mother a few minutes of attention. There is NO EXCUSE.

  3. His apology is almost worse than his original post. He refers to his military and rpd service, as if that is reason to forgive him. I was on the BOE. And no, the board isn’t required to respond to any public comments, but if there ever was one, this brave woman deserved to be acknowledged. Not only for her words and message, but for her bravery and her loss. My biggest issue is the message this sends to each and every student in our district. There should be consequences. The kids have them, and so should the leaders of our school.

      • I am not a resident of the Wayne Central District. However, I graduated from Wayne Central and have been employed by Wayne for 37yrs. Shame on every board member present for this poor mom’s talk.
        Did you all check your hearts and courage at the door? You have all failed miserably in your charge to lead and guide Wayne Central.

        • I to am a graduate of Wayne central. I work for a neighboring district and have for 30+ years. The way this mom was treated is cruel,rude,disrespectful, The board is taking the coward way out. Graduated from Wayne,( 1971) when bullying wasn’t such an issue and board members cared about what taxpayers and parents had to say.

    • I was thinking the same exact thing… there was no excuse for his behavior. This was not professional nor honorable, honestly he should be ashamed to mention his time served in the military and his time as an officer. This man should not be sitting on nor affiliated with the BOE at any school district.
      Frannie, your Luke is proud of you, as are your family and friends What we do, we do for our children… continued prayers to you my friend.

  4. Thank you Susan Ashline for putting this together for those who may not be very tuned in to the workings of our District.

  5. Wow. That’s just cold. Not even an acknowledgement to her sorrow or a condolence. And McTigue would have been forced to step down after a stunt like that in our district. Shameful.

  6. Ms. Burns,

    As a mother of two young and impressionable children that are students of the district my heart broke for you and your family when I heard of your devastating loss. And after hearing you courageously and articulately address our board members at the last meeting my heart shattered for you once again. Please know that this member of the Wayne community heard your words and feels your pain. I’d like to thank you for sharing your thoughts even though it must seem as though it fell on deaf ears. Please know your strength hasn’t gone unnoticed. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

  7. My heart to Fran and family. I am proud to call her my friend. I am thoroughly disgusted by the lack of decency extended her by the BOE. I’m sickened that not ONE showed empathy, much less consideration, and that includes the Superintendent who chooses not to expose his elementary child to the WCSD, instead residing in Webster. Fran, all parents, our children, taxpayers, deserve better.

  8. So very proud of you Fran for having the guts to sit alone and call out a board member. Under no circumstance should a school board member or school employee period post something as ignorant and prejudice as his post was and quite frankly no one that thinks this way should be employed by the school or making decisions on behalf of the school. Shame on you all!! Everyone on that board that said nothing and just continued on like what Fran said was nothing but empty words. I truly hope that he is forced to resign.

  9. My last child graduated from Wayne in 2006, and in a few short years my granddaughter will be attending,

    This is totally disgusting that one of our Board Members is actually a bully himself. I truly do not understand how this has been allowed to “go away ” quietly. How can we, and our children expect to look up to our leaders? How do you even go to these Board Members for help or direction?

  10. Courage to speak your words were met with cowardly silence. Shame, shame, shame on that school board for allowing that member to remain.

  11. You can tell a lot about a person by what they find funny. I’m sorry to hear McTigue say that he meant his post as a joke. There are three things that really trouble me about it.

    First, that he sees homelessness as something he can joke about. I hope people keep giving money to the ‘bag lady’ he referenced. It’s doubtful she could get that job at the store next door. It’s actually pretty hard to get a job when you don’t have a place to live or shower. It’d be great if he volunteered to help out at a homeless shelter or food cupboard, maybe even on a regular basis, to show that he really is sorry for that part of the statement. Maybe he could meet some homeless folks face to face and learn to treat them as people worthy of compassion and respect.

    Second, if he finds his fellow humans who do not adhere to his standards of physical attractiveness so disgusting (even if he meant it as a joke-not funny) then I certainly don’t trust him to have the best interests of students, especially those who fall outside the bounds of what he deems worthy of respect, at heart.

    Third that in both cases it’s women whom he finds so abhorrent (he calls the person a sow). Is it ok for guys to be heavy? It’s just women that need to put the forks down? And wait a minute, heavy people, heavy women, aren’t allowed to eat cake when they go out? What would be an acceptable meal?

    We all say things we regret. We all have bad days. I hope that this was simply a lapse of judgement. Unfortunately McTigue has revealed something about his heart that can’t be taken back or dismissed as a joke. I’ve known homeless people and heavy people that have shown a lot more compassion for their fellow humans than McTigue showed in his post. Apologizing is good and necessary. It’s good that he said he was sorry. I hope he does the right thing now and steps down to show students that actions have consequences and that there are some things that can’t be undone by using the ‘it was just a joke’ defense, that poisonous words have a cost to the poisoned and the poisoner.

  12. My heart goes out this brave mom. Please know that every decent human being who learns of this is outraged and hears you and cares deeply.
    If I still lived there, they would certainly hear me.
    God bless you for your courage. Your little boy was and is lucky to have you for his mom. Your voice is a beautiful tribute and who knows how many families it will save.
    Stay strong. You are not alone.

  13. My husband and I and our 3 children attended Wayne and now our grandchildren will be. I know some of the board members and I’m so very disappointed in their lack of response. I expected more from them. Acknowledgement of any proportion validates someone’s feelings. Shame on you for allowing “Mr.” McTigue to remain on the Board. He is the adult bully and that’s our example for our children going through Wayne Central. Mr. McTigue it wasn’t a “joke”. All I can say is make sure you get out and vote next year.

    Fran – you are very brave and courageous and I give you so much credit. We lost our daughter, not in the same way, but nonetheless we know how it feels to lose a child. It takes courage just to get through everyday let alone having to deal with something like this. Bless you and your family. It’s not an easy road…

  14. Just wanted to add that I sent this after the Board meeting that night. I got NO response until I saw Dr. Calvin on Monday in person. At that point he said he was “surprised” I had not heard back from the Board. The next day I got a ridiculous response from the Board president. I will post this separately. ACCORDING TO Shelly Frank who had informed Mrs. Burns of my letter, Fran received NO RESPONSE FROM A SINGLE BOARD MEMBER AT THAT POINT. No one reached out to her even on their own time or after some time for personal reflection.

    Disgusting.

    Here is what I had sent and then posted on Freewill Moving Forward FB page:

    I sent this tonight to reflect my disappointment over the Board’s response to Mr. McTigue’s FB comments, as well as the lack of a clear response from the district regarding the bullying nature of his statement. I will also be bringing this up during our upcoming parent transition team meeting and will get back to you with any reply I receive.

    Dear Board of Education and Dr. Calvin –

    I attended tonight’s BOE meeting and would like to express my disappointment in the fact that no one acknowledged the bravery and courage that it took for Mrs. Burns to get up and make an anti-bullying statement. She was poignant, respectful, and her statement echoed the sentiment of the community at large, I believe. For her to have said that, and then to have not ONE single Board member recognize the strength it took to make a statement like that is shameful. A simple “thank you” or “the Board hears your concerns” or something along those lines would have, at minimum, shown her the respect she deserved.

    Bullying is destroying the lives of people all over the Rochester area and beyond, and the District should proudly and unflinchingly support all anti-bullying campaigns. We need to help one another to watch over and protect our children from this life threatening behavior. When anyone in a position of power in the educational system publicly bullies others, in any form, the district must respond with an unwavering “We will NOT accept, tolerate, or condone this type of behavior, from our students, our staff, our administration, or our Board on any level whatsoever.” This does not demand a certain set of actions against the offender, but instead clearly states the District’s commitment to protect its children from this type of behavior.

    I was saddened to be a member of the Wayne Community tonight. I expected better.

    Most sincerely,
    Jessica Strauss

  15. Here is the Board President’s response:

    Dear Ms. Strauss
    I apologize for the lateness of this response. I truly had thought I had responded right away after you wrote us. I know I had written but must not have hit the send. After that the week has been a blur with the holiday and a very busy week for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Also I would like to say that after Mrs. Burns spoke that evening, I did say “Thank you”, as I do after every speaker.

    Sincerely,

    Tim Reynolds
    President, Board of Education
    Wayne Central School District
    timreynolds@waynecsd.org
    585-755-9565

  16. My earlier comment was supposed to start with this and got cut off somehow: Unbelievable. No one thanked her, affirmed her, no one said I’m sorry for the loss of your son. No one stopped for a second to offer a compassionate word. Who ARE these people???

    (Please, someone who was there tell me that at least one person on the board talked to her afterward!)

  17. This makes me feel very ashamed to be a graduate of Wayne Central right now…

  18. I am a Wayne County resident. I had all three of my children attend the Wayne Central School District. All three of my children were bullied for different reasons. I am fortunate that none of them felt so lost, inferior, depressed, and lonely, as if they were a nothing or a nobody; that they felt the only option was suicide. The Facebook post is so utterly disgusting that any adult who doesn’t have the restraint to publish such ugly comments should not be working on a board of our school or anywhere near our children. Our children need people who will show them what it is to respect others. They need adults who will stand up for what is just, fair and RIGHT. There is enough hate in this world. There is enough in our world today for our children to see the wrong way to handle their anger, frustration and fear. We need more role models who are able to teach our children how to safely act and react to their internal turmoil. If you are not able to be a good role model, we don’t need nor do we want you anywhere near our children.
    My sympathy goes out to the mother who lost her child; my disgust goes out to the people who taught those children to be the bullies and who drove this young child to feel that his only recourse was suicide.
    I can only pray for you all. Dear Lord Jesus, show us your way. Have mercy on us all.

  19. This man is flaunting his past hoping we are as stupid as he hopes. His past may be good but he is in a position now that affects all students in the district. He should resign or the Board should censor him!

  20. Carolyn Coyle on June 16, 2017

    I am a mother who lost my daughter when she was 49. No one knows what it is like to bury ones child unless they have been through this (God Forbid). I can not imagine what courage it took for Fran to speak before the board and to have NO ONE Respond!!! I can not comprehend what she must be going through for the way her son died, my heart breaks for her. Kids must be taught that it is WRONG to BULLY, to make fun of someone. instead be taught to try to make friends with that person. God Bless you Fran and your family, I am so very sorry for your loss and how you were treated before the board.

  21. Sadly the schools have not changed and do not care. This is why my daughter and I quit speaking out. We received threats up to and including death because we spoke out. We were called liars and my daughter ended up having to temporarily leave the district she was attending. It breaks my heart every time I hear about stories like this because it doesn’t have to be like this. If only more people would take action and push for change instead of just sitting behind a keyboard talking about how things should change.

  22. We recently moved to this community last summer and I am appalled by the behaviors of the school leaders and the local government. What on earth did we move to?

  23. Ms. Burns, I am deeply sorry for your loss. This failure of the Board makes me sick. They are so lacking in compassion, I am aghast.
    -Jennifer Dennie

  24. Ms. Burns, I am so sorry for your loss. I pray for you and your son. May he RIP.

    Mr. McTigue, you are a coward. Your social media post was no joke. You meant what you wrote. I would have more respect for you if you at least admitted that and apologized for your behavior. Instead you hide behind your military record? I’m thinking that they are now just as embarrassed and outraged as the rest of us are!

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