Letter: B.B. school board requests retraction
June 6, 2019 at 4:53 a.m.
One year ago today, two Blind Brook students left the Senior Prom early, explicitly violating school regulations designed to protect students on prom night. These actions triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to Blind Brook High School Principal Patricia Lambert defending herself in court against charges of harassment and facing an order of protection against a former student. Or, as the Westmore News repeatedly asserted in six articles published throughout the summer and fall of 2018: Principal Lambert stood accused of “smacking” a student.
These articles acknowledged that New York’s Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) expressly prohibited Principal Lambert, Superintendent Ross and the Board of Education from directly commenting on confidential student matters while an investigation remains pending. As a result, the District found itself unable to address these one-sided accountings, rife with factual inaccuracies and misleading assertions, that were presented to the community as telling the full story.
On Oct. 4, 2018, all charges against Principal Lambert were fully dropped, and the order of protection was rescinded. The Oct. 11, 2018 article detailing the judge’s decision noted in passing that “a thorough review of the evidence by the District Attorney’s Office and the Mamaroneck Police Department determined evidence did not support the accusations.” This single sentence could hardly undo the damage done to a dedicated administrator’s reputation following four months of “smacking” accusations.
We, the members of the Blind Brook Board of Education, revisit this painful incident today because Westmore News seems determined to revisit the mistakes of the past. Once again, an inflammatory headline accuses Principal Lambert of scandalous behavior: “going behind a teacher’s back to boost a cheating student’s grade.” Once again, a one-sided recounting of the allegations is both presented as fact and peppered with rhetorical questions that belong in the opinion section (“Does cheating without consequence encourage integrity?”). And once again, the District cannot adequately respond to these allegations, due to the unambiguous protections that FERPA grants to our students and their families.
Westmore News provides an incredibly valuable service for the members of our community. As parents of past and current Blind Brook students, we relish the in-depth coverage of our district and its talented students, teachers, administrators and staff. And as elected officials, we appreciate the value our constituents place upon honest and probing reporting. This is particularly true in these difficult times, when the notion of a free press faces an unprecedented assault at the hands of a hostile government.
But we would also posit that it is more important than ever for legitimate news sources to be even-handed, fair and careful in their reporting. Unfortunately, your May 23 cover story fails to meet that standard. We can only hope that this time, it will take less than four months for the public to receive an accurate accounting and retraction.
The Board of Education of the Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District
Ryan Goldstein, President
Ashley Welde, Vice President