February 17, 2020

Region 4 School Board to Receive Report on High School Investigation

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting Tuesday to receive a report on the investigation in to an alleged gag order that suppressed students freedom of speech at Valley Regional High School before and after the departure of the school principal last month.

The meeting, to be held at the district central office in Deep River, is to begin at 6 p.m. with a closed door session with the district lawyer, followed by “discussion and possible action concerning an investigative report regarding alleged suppression of student’s First Amendment rights” at the high school.

The board on Nov. 19 hired Madison lawyer Stacey Lafferty to investigate claims by some students and parents that students at the high school were prevented from discussing the Oct. 12 resignation of former Principal Eric Rice under threat of sanctions. The alleged gag order was also part of various complaints with state and federal agencies that were filed earlier this month by Essex resident Susan Magaziner.

Claims there was a gag order at the high school surfaced in late September amid reports that Rice, who was hired as principal over the summer, had been given a resign-or-be-fired ultimatum by Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy.
Lafferty; who had worked previously for the Region 4 school board as a hearing officer at student expulsion hearings, began the investigation on Nov. 21, and was at the high school last week during the three days leading up to the school’s Thanksgiving holiday break.

Levy had said on Nov. 22 she was uncertain how much time would be needed to complete the investigation. She said after the investigation was complete a report would be presented to the Region 4 board and made available to the public.