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Easthampton School Committee “surprised, dismayed” by Mayor’s statement

Easthampton School Committee "surprised, dismayed" by Mayor's statement
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 7:49 PM EDT
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EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -Earlier this week, the Easthampton School Committee intended to hold a closed-door meeting with mayor Nicole LaChappelle to discuss comments she made to a student on the high school’s civics competition team back in March. But Mayor LaChapelle had other plans.

“At the ‘we the people’ practice session, I intended to share my perspective about implicit bias that may factor into the judging decisions. Yes I swore, yes I had a rough morning, not excusable but human,” said Mayor LaChapelle.

Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChappelle chose to make a public comment at the School Committee Meeting Tuesday night. At issue, the mother of a high school student had posted on Facebook, alleging that the Mayor had made racist remarks to her daughter in front of the ‘we the people’ class in March. The post has since been deleted. Mayor LaChappelle addressed continued concerns more than a month later.

“My comments were intended to strengthen the students’ arguments by acknowledging factors that are out of their control the biased often faced by people of color, I believe deeply that understanding and anticipating possible bias is essential when delivering public remarks but my words were heard differently by a student and their family,” she said.

Then, the meeting took an unexpected turn, when Mayor LaChappelle refused to attend the rest of the executive session.

“I have issued apologies, public and private. I have issued statements also public and private. I honor your process and I am here in good faith because we have work to do in our schools. If there’s any outstanding questions that committee members have for me following tonight’s executive session, I am happy to answer them,” she said.

So, the anticipated executive session discussion with Mayor LaChappelle did not happen. Western Mass News obtained a letter that went out to parents of Easthampton High School students the next day, signed by the School Committee Chairperson, that addressed what played out at Tuesday night’s meeting. It says in part-quote:

“The School Committee was surprised and dismayed at her refusal to address this issue with the Committee.”

It goes on to say:

“The Committee wants to clearly state that no matter how the Mayor’s comment was intended, we believe it was racist and unacceptable.”

“We understand that the Mayor has apologized for her action, however, the Committee strongly believes that more restorative work needs to be done by Mayor La Chapelle.”

Western Mass News reached out to Mayor LaChapelle and the School Committee for further comment, but have not yet heard back.