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Williamston school board recall divides community

Posted at 11:33 AM, Nov 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-04 22:17:41-05

Long-time political observers say America is as divided now as it's ever been, and it's not just national and state elections.

A local race that has a small town divided. The school board recall elections in Williamston are so divisive that we're told some family members are barely speaking to each other right now.

This started when the board passed a transgender student policy. Now social media is full of profanity, accusations, threats, and a general unwillingness to listen to each other.

"It's taking the focus away from where it should be which is our kids and what is in the best interest for them," Lori Johnecheck, Williamston parent.

About the only thing both sides agree on is that things have gone overboard, especially on social media.

"These are a few heated individuals, that don't necessarily well represent either side, maybe some people from each side. I think it's a tactic to stir things up," said Johnecheck.

There is some disagreement about what exactly caused the division. School board president Greg Talberg said it's the policy itself.

"I think the overall divisiveness isn't just here, it's more intense here because of the recall election and the policies we took up. I don't think it's unique to Williamston. Despite the bickering you see online, despite the yard signs I know as the board president we can count on our community to support our schools," said Greg Talberg, Williamston School Board President

However, Williamston parent Lori Johnecheck felt she and other opponents were ignored as the policy was rushed into action.

"For your board president to go from about five people at a meeting to 200 at the next one once people found out what was going on. You missed a step of due process in bringing that. And then to say you're going to pass this November 6th some version of it whether the community wants it or not. It's not right and it's not representing the community, and I think that's the real root of the division here in Williamston," said Johnecheck.

Talberg acknowledges people against the policy felt left out of the process, but he denies they were ignored.

"Their voice was heard. And it is reflected in the policies we passed. Not everyone got what they want, they didn't get the exact language everybody wanted. But the policies are a direct and clear reflection of the concerns we heard from our community." said Talberg

Talberg himself was accused of making threats in a separate dispute over guns in schools.

He posted on Facebook that the NRA shouldn't be allowed to drive the bus, it should be run over by the bus.

He later apologized for it and said he wasn't trying to advocate violence.

Either way, it's a sign of just how tense things are in the community heading into election day.

The transgender policy said the schools shall "accept the gender identity that each student asserts reflecting the student's legitimately-held belief."
Additionally, the student and parent or guardian must notify the administration if the student changes gender identities.
It also states the district will customize support for each student.