OPINION: Much Ado About Non-Threats in Saline

At Tuesday's Saline Board of Education meeting, Board President Jennifer Steben, in a prelude to a long and ultra-repetitive round of public comment, said something that made my good ear twitch.

It started normally enough - with Steben telling us the board members serve because they love the students - "so let's be kind to each other."

But before she opened the gabbling, she dropped this:

"We see what's happening in our district and other districts, with threats of violence, with aggressive behavior towards superintendents, teachers, staff and trustees," Steben said.

Our district? Threats?

Only two days earlier, someone implored me to remove a post in Saline Posts, the sometimes quarrelsome Facebook group I help mismanage. The post was about a proposed anti-mask protest in the school and the warning said this post could instigate violence against school officials.

By golly, I didn't recall witnessing anything that might stoke violence. So, I went back and looked. By this point, the allegedly threatening post had been edited several times, and I wasn't about to read all of its iterations. The post, which was made by a man who has been nothing but exceptionally polite in every public comment I've ever heard him make, was removed anyway. Disaster was averted. 

But here we were again. just a few days later, with someone sounding alarms about threats of violence. In our community. Against our school officials.

When the public portion of the meeting was over I asked Superintendent Steve Laatsch and President Steben if there were any threats made in our district. Steben couldn't go into it - but she did say a "concerning" communication was forwarded to the police chief.

Was our peaceful community really just a powderkeg set to blow? I needed to know. I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Chief Hart and the Saline Police Department and they complied quickly.

I'm not going to publish the details - other than to say that someone in another Facebook group suggested hiring private detectives to follow board members and administrators to catch them not wearing masks for a "rules for thee, not for me" scandal. That's the perceived threat relayed to the police chief, even though, according to the document, the district's human resources assistant superintendent Curt Ellis said it wasn't actionable before the report was forwarded to the police. The police chief ultimately agreed.

There was no threat of violence against school officials in Saline. Just like there was no threat a few days earlier on Facebook.

So why was this becoming a theme in Saline?

Even locally, partisan groups of people have their own information networks. That's becoming increasingly obvious, whether it's evident because of repeated false narratives about threats, or copied and pasted public comments repeated over and over by several people, stretching public meetings well beyond their useful term,

It's always the "other people" who issue the threats. It's the "opposition" that's dangerous, despicable and deplorable.

Since 20t6, we've been faced off, blasting each other with a never-ending firehose stream of destructive misinformation and maliciousness- all the while pretending we're righteous and superior.

At the community's recent Sept. 11 ceremony, there were calls for the kind of unity we felt on Sept. 12, 2001. That can't happen until we stop pretending our "opposition" is the "American Al-Qaeda." Trust me. I have friends in both camps. This charge now goes both ways.

Stop the social media bullyragging. Quit treating your political party platform like God's commandments. Seek out people in the other camp and talk to them about football, hockey, the weather, burgers, beer, movies, cars, Saline Athletics, books, cryptocurrency, fashion - whatever floats your boat.

Before DEI became a mind-numbing corporate consultant industry, a virtue-signaling badge or a standard used to decide who the mob tars and feathers, its lessons were valuable to all of us. 

We were better with a diversity of people and opinions. We were enriched when we were inclusive (and respectful) of different cultures and ideas. 

We should love, not fear each other.

Especially when there's nothing to fear.

4 5
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is not local
This is unverified
Promotional
Spam
Offensive

Replies

Tran, this is really outstanding. Some good old investigative journalism mixed with thoughtful observations. Just outstanding. Thanks for taking the time to pull this together and share it.

I disagree with this
This is not local
This is unverified
Promotional
Spam
Offensive

Op-Ed Rebuttal: Much More To-Do

A recent editorial in The Saline Post, penned by Tran Longmoore, attempted to soothe the divisiveness of our community. While his intentions may have been good, I believe the article had the opposite effect.

The article made light of the fact that members of the school board felt unsafe in the current climate of mask mandate debates in our schools. Some members had even recently relayed troubling information to the local authorities regarding Saline parents planning specific action against them. Luckily, no further response was needed and the individuals are safe. Instead of welcoming this as a job well done by Saline police, and trying to defuse escalating emotions on the issue by suggesting the community refrain from taking matters into their own hands, the article chose instead to downplay the concerns of the school board and claim that, “There was no threat of violence against school officials in Saline.”

Mr. Longmoore, you do not get to decide if someone’s fear is valid. To put it bluntly, a stalker isn’t violent...until they are. It may be true that the authorities did not find evidence of implicit violence in this particular communication. But with the very real attacks on school officials throughout the country, you can imagine how any suspicious acts can create fear and anxiety. The School Board is facing immense pressure this year. These are educators who just want to help our children succeed and I’m sure they did not expect parents to hire private investigators to spy on their lives. If the situation was reversed, I’m certain these parents would feel violated and terrorized. This is not the way to further anyone’s cause, no matter what the belief.

I personally support vaccine and mask mandates. I’m vocal about these beliefs on social media. Yet, if you hired a P.I. to follow me, would they “catch” me without a mask? I’m sure they would at some point. Why? Because I’m human. I’ve forgotten my mask before, or perhaps I felt a little safer because I was vaccinated - I’m not perfect. I still try to keep my family safe as much as possible. This includes my child, who is too young to be vaccinated right now. I see the Covid-19 numbers rise in our area and remember how my child missed an entire year of school in quarantine. I try harder to remember my mask now. No one is perfect. Proving this does not strengthen your position, and these tactics are not necessary.

Lastly, the article suggests we all come together and talk about what we have in common. I would agree with the author, except for two things. One, Tran runs one of the most divisive and partisan Facebook groups regarding our community and doesn’t merely “mismanage” it, he encourages and participates in the contention. Second, this call for unity was stated while defaming a much needed body in Saline - The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. This body demonstrates what we should be celebrating - our differences. If we tried to understand each other and appreciate that we are not all the same, we will not all agree, then maybe we can learn to talk to each other as human beings instead of resorting to spying and coercion. We are a community, we can be civil to each other even when we disagree. We are the parents of Saline. Let’s start acting like it.

I disagree with this
This is not local
This is unverified
Promotional
Spam
Offensive