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Simon censured at feisty school board meeting

June 06, 2012
LITTLETON — School board member John Simon was censured by fellow board members on Monday evening. The board expressed concern about Simon's conduct related to a student disciplinary issue. Additional concern was raised because Simon talked to Sikander Rashid, Principal at Littleton High School (LHS), about the incident.

Early in the meeting, one Simon critic said he should resign his position. The board noted that it had no authority to force that drastic action.

The incident in question related to a student's suspension for what appeared to be an unauthorized absence. The student's father suggested that the suspension was "crazy punishment for something so simple." Rashid said he was concerned about the suspension, which is why he moved to overturn the original decision to discipline the student. The absence related to a medical appointment.

Rashid expressed concern about Simon's conduct during their meeting. The principal suggested, "I felt like I needed to file a police report . . . I was threatened."

Simon countered by saying that Rashid should "get your story straight." Simon did admit that he asked Rashid "what he was going to do" about the disciplinary matter.

One of the board's main concerns was that Simon's discussion with Rashid disturbed the chain of command. The board does not oversee school administrators, just the superintendent. The superintendent then oversees the conduct of principals. Essentially, the board lacks power to intervene in the action that the principal took.

Currently, board members who wish to enter schools on official business must receive the consent of the board. Both the superintendent and the principal must also be informed. The board developed a consensus during the meeting that revisions should occur to clarify limitations on board members.

When member Alison Bolt raised concern about Simon's conduct, he spoke about his action. Simon noted that he may have acted "a little bit out of line" in talking to Rashid. He suggested that he had a "legitimate educational interest" in knowing about the matter, however.

Bolt countered, "You had information you should not have had . . . you had no business being there in the first place." She told Simon, "You usurped the superintendent's authority."

Simon declared, "I wasn't looking to harm and defame." He merely wanted to know about a matter of importance. He accepted that "maybe I was wrong to do it," but "my intentions were good." "I don't feel like I have ever asked an inappropriate question," Simon said. "I want to make things right for my school system."

There was additional concern among the board that Simon's actions may have violated the national Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This law is designed to protect the privacy of student records.

Public comments during the meeting were mixed. Some parents told Simon that he undermined school administrators and violated family privacy. Others suggested the board should not single out Simon because board members have been involved in school matters before.

To his critics, Simon scornfully noted, "If you have a problem with me, come see me, if you have the nerve." Some at the meeting, Simon informed the board, "have tried to make my life hell."

As comments on both sides continued, there were allegations from Simon and others that character had been defamed during the evening's meeting. Vice Chairman Rodney Edwards suggested that the meeting stay focused on the matter at hand. "This is turning into mayhem," he said.

During the meeting, Chairman Ann Wiggett read from the school board's ethical requirements. She noted that board members must respect confidentiality and refrain from using their position inappropriately.

Bolt suggested, "This behavior has to be addressed." She said that the privacy concerns and Simon's "confrontation with Mr. Rashid" warranted Simon's censure by the board.

The motion to censure Simon was approved without dissent. The board also wished to note that the policy revision to keep board members away from schools without authorization should be reflected in the meeting minutes.

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