Malcolm X famously said that the media is the most powerful entity on earth. It can make the guilty innocent and the innocent guilty. The public at large should be wary of this power. It is not only enshrined in our constitution but in stable nations the world over, that innocence should be assumed until guilt is proven, and proof requires facts. Factual reporting and journalistic standards are desperately needed from members of the media, some who have spent more than a year flaming the fires of division and discontent in the Central Bucks School District community and beyond, with allegations and innuendo that are yet unsettled. 

It’s almost a year since the story broke regarding the suspension of teacher Andrew Burgess, and the subsequent grandstanding that resulted when the ACLU filed a complaint alleging a “toxic educational environment for LGBQ&T students.”  That allegation is truly a charge against the entire district: teachers, students, administration and parents. It’s an accusation against the reputation of a stellar school district and, ultimately, an indictment on the entire community of people who have built their lives and raised their families here and fostered deep bonds with their neighbors. Many of us chose to live in this special community because it offered so much opportunity and an incomparable quality of life — a truly wonderful place to live and put down roots.  

The allegations themselves are an open wound on our district that must be healed. That warrants a thorough investigation and accurate reporting of the facts. All of us as stakeholders should be eager for and demand factual information, so that our district can understand the root of what brought us to what feels like a war within our community. 

In the year since the Burgess story broke, one can argue that the power described in Malcolm X quote has been demonstrated by multiple media outlets who failed their duty of journalistic integrity to report on the story in a non-biased manner.  

Reporters from the Bucks County Courier Times, the Bucks County Herald, WHYY, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, just to name a few, created a narrative and amplified it, without conducting a thorough investigation, exposing their bias and fanning the flames of division without regard for the collateral damage they unleashed on our school district and greater community. The Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board unmasked their prejudice, with a December headline “What is going on at the Central Bucks School District is an appalling disregard for LGBTQ students.” How can such a headline presuming guilt be written, by an editorial board of a once esteemed and venerable newspaper, without a verified facts regarding a complaint that incriminates an entire cadre of teachers, administrators, students and families? 

Front page news this week informs us that Mr. Burgess is now suing the district. It’s wise that this reporter uses the word “allege” in one form or other, seventeen times, as the matter of this new lawsuit is exactly that: another allegation. And yet she tells us that this suit “provides the first details” surrounding these event. Thank you, Ms. Ciavaglia for telling the public there have been no details, despite the press crowing about this matter for a year. 

Democracy is in peril, and the very tenets of our constitution are in peril, when reporters exist to  only extol a narrative, without honesty and journalistic integrity. 

Once the ACLU filed a complaint, entirely redacted, without any complaints having been reported to our staff and administration, CBSD had no choice but to hire a law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations. It is the administration’s duty to protect all of our students, as well as the future and the reputation of our district, its teacher and students and to not conduct an investigation would constitute a dereliction of duty.  

A great deal of ink and breath, combined with the innumerable keystrokes expended by fierce, often anonymous activists and keyboard warriors, has been spent regarding the cost of the investigation that will be passed on to the taxpayers. We are due an exhaustive and fair reporting of the expenses incurred as a result of this ACLU complaint.   

The Central Bucks School District announced today that they will receive the report from the legal firm regarding the ACLU complaint at a special meeting on Thursday, April 20 and the board will consider dissemination of the report. For the sake of our fractured community it is crucial that the manner and operation of the bullying charges finally be divulged. If we live in a district where bullying is commonplace, we all should want to know specifics.  

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) subscribes to a Code of Ethics regarding journalistic standards and professional conduct. According to its preamble, “Members of the SPJ believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.” Their four principles are to: Seek Truth and Report It; Minimize Harm; Act Independently; and Be Accountable and Transparent.

It is right and just that the journalists covering the results of this legal investigation write about the findings in a fair and unbiased manner. For the sake of the public’s trust in them, they must do so as vigorously as they have written about allegations this past year. To do anything else would be to fan the flames of divisiveness and anger that have deeply broken our community.

Many people tell me the media tells a story, but not always the whole story. Over the past year, it feels as though our stellar school district has been targeted by the media intent to paint a picture so as to destroy what so many of us hold so dear. 

For the sake of our democracy, our constitution, and our entire populace, we should all demand the truth. Anything less will prove Malcom X’s words true, eroding the presumption of innocence and baring the festering wound that will continue to devastate all of us. 

Donna Shannon is a concerned Central Bucks parent, small business owner and full-time community volunteer.

7 thoughts on “A Central Bucks parent: Truth can lead the way to heal our divided district”

  1. Attacking people for being minorites is fascism. Banning books is authoritarianism. That’s exactly what the extreme right wingers who have funded this school board want. There was just an article written about how wealthy conservatives are lining the pockets of the board so they get reelected. It’s obvious. As a trans person I lived in doylestown, I left because of how disrespectful the conservative people who live there are. I’ve been called a number of slurs, have been openly disrespected by employees of local stores, and generally treated poorly. Doylestown is by far not a great place for LGBTQ people, police there openly protect right wing terrorists that spew obscenities around town with a microphone and doylestown has often been the staging ground for right wing extremist meet ups. The facts are this, the central bucks school board is biased and supported by right wing extremists, extremists who want to put lgbt people such as myself and those children who attend those schools to death. They are fascists who are eugenically driven. They view lgbt people a sub human and undesirables as they do not advance the agendas of the white race and it’s religious benefactors. It is laughable that this article calls for “civility” when the Republican party is a mockery of what it used to be. The Republican party has been corrupted by fascism: freedom this freedom that with it’s servile voters brainwashed to vote against their own interests for the sake of cutting billionaires tax dollars and literally sacrificing the lives of children so they can have a gun collecting hobby.

    1. Doylestown Boro is far left you nut job. Those people who allegedly made you feel so uncomfortable were the ones who support being able to read adult oriented stories in graphic detail under the creepy guise of education.

      Go piss someone off in another school district with your delusions.

  2. Let’s be aware of Donna’s history, shall we?

    Donna Shannon disagreed, saying about mask-wearing in schools: “It is wrong to punish success and it is wrong to punish healthy people.”

    Donna Shannon, a Doylestown resident, said she thinks Pride symbols are divisive. “When any group, no matter how large or small, has such an eye-catching and flamboyant symbol, that is not inclusive, it is not only a distraction, but a trigger for a negative response,” Shannon said. “No one else likes having someone else’s viewpoint pushed on them.”

    Donna Shannon from Doylestown, for example, complained that the LGBTQ community was “fixating” on sexual orientation with symbols like pride flags. She said that pride flags lead to “resentment, paranoia, confusion and distraction” and “alienate much of the student population.”

    Donna Shannon said that Policy 321 is needed to “curb this behavior of indoctrinating to one viewpoint,”

    Donna Shannon from Doylestown complained that school employees should not share their fear of covid with students, or “push that fear onto the kids.” Eventually she suggested that children could avoid becoming ill with Covid if they improved their physical condition by, for instance, losing weight, “since that’s the biggest comorbidity.” She urged teachers not to “Inform students of their bedroom practices.”

    1. Yea. Donna sounds way more normal and level-headed than the previous tranny on the crazy train.

      I dont know Donna, but all that stuff is true – trust the science.

  3. Meanwhile radical Republicans are censoring textbooks because stating the simple fact that Rosa Parks was black and that there was a law that black people had to sit at the back of the bus is deemed too “woke” by politicians. I’m old enough to remember when the right complained about “political correctness” and politicians overriding parents. Lol.

    Old Version: “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.”

    Changed to: “She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin.”

    Further edited to: “She was told to move to a different seat. She did not. She did what she believed was right.”

    When asked, the publisher said they made the change in response to their “interpretation” of Ron DeSantis’ bill.

  4. I cannot understand how any current Board Member who openly supports the acquisition and distribution of Child Pornography (as defined under PA C.S. 6312 etc.) can ask for our votes. Now that the Report has RIGHTFULLY been released for all to read, it clearly shows that at least one Member of the Board and one “teacher” have effectively been the community dividers. In the last few days, the various labour unions representing CB employees have attempted to rally their members, forced to join their “club”, to support the teacher/union VP whose own depositions and emails clearly show his malfeasance, resulting in the recommendation that he be terminated without pay. What parent, what taxpayer, what teaching professional, what support staff member, what Administrator, and what citizen, all of whom claim to “want what’s best for children”, could possibly support a person that has brought so much damage to the District… or a School Board Member whose allegations to the ACLU and others were also proven unsubstantiated? These people need to go, period.

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