Buffalo board apologizes to students, parents

2011-11-14T23:45:00Z 2011-11-15T00:14:10Z Buffalo board apologizes to students, parents

By WILLIAM BROWNING

Casper Star-Tribune

The Billings Gazette
November 14, 2011 11:45 pm  • 

BUFFALO — The Johnson County School Board opened its meeting Monday evening with a public apology addressed to students and parents affected by the Pat Lynch incident.

Lynch distributed an offensive survey titled “Hurt Feelings Report,” that included sexist and anti-gay rhetoric before Buffalo High School’s first-round playoff football game against Star Valley in Afton on Oct. 28.

He was subsequently prevented from coaching that game and later resigned his coaching duties at Buffalo High School. He had been head coach for 13 years. However, district officials decided to keep him as a guidance counselor, under administrative supervision.

The statement the board made Monday, which was read by member Rich Hall, said in part: “These are difficult times, but this will become a teachable moment.”

The decision to allow Lynch to keep his current post has drawn growing criticism after national media outlets and websites retold the story.

A student who spoke to the board during the public comment segment of Monday’s meeting asked the board, “What’s going to happen?”

“People are aware of it, people are working on it,” Superintendent Rod Kessler responded, adding that since it is a personnel matter, the board could not comment on specifics.

The student also noted that national media outlets have reported on the story and students, he said, are concerned about the school’s reputation.

Another student who spoke choked with emotion. She said she knows Lynch is not a “bad person,” but he made a mistake.

“He messed up,” the student said. “He needs us now. He’s been behind us when we’ve messed up.”

The board’s statement Monday said it does not agree with media suggestions that it supports Lynch’s action. The board does not approve of the survey, Hall said specifically.

However, Mary Plank, a Buffalo resident, told the board that by allowing Lynch to keep his guidance counselor post, they were, “in essence, agreeing with his handout.”

Plank also echoed the first student’s thoughts about national media attention, saying she felt embarrassed by the attention for this type of incident.

“You really need to rethink this,” she said in closing, “because it’s not going to go away.”

Deborah Dillinger, who has a son who plays football for the Buffalo team, also spoke to the board. She said she was “appalled, ashamed and embarrassed” by the survey, which she called “disgusting.”

“He is a teacher — a teacher first,” she said. “And if he’s not, then what are we doing?”

Dillinger specifically asked the board who else her child could see at the school in regard to guidance counseling.

“My kid doesn’t trust him,” she said.

Kessler named three other counselors whom students could see beside Lynch. He noted that that has been case since before the survey.

Roughly 25 people attended the Monday evening gathering.

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