Lacey Parents Fight To Recall Board Member

The Board of Education moved the meeting to the auditorium of the Lacey Township High School to accommodate the crowds. (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

LACEY – Following a recent heated debate between parents and the Lacey Board of Education over two suspended students, parents and Lacey residents have formed a committee and begun circulating a petition to recall long-time board member Linda Downing.

After a five-day in-school suspension and one Saturday detention was given to two Lacey Township High School students for posting photos of firearms and ammunition at a gun range on social media, parents became enraged that the Board was overstepping, claiming that it has no right to discipline students outside of the realm of school grounds.

Parents took these concerns to the March 19 Board of Education meeting and now, beyond this.

The three individuals that spearheaded this committee are Amanda Buron, Frank Horvath, and Valerie Jones, all parents of the district.  “You need three people for each board member,” to recall, said Buron.

According to Buron, the leader of this committee, they are not technically “allowed” to make any progress on the recall petition until they allow Downing a period of five business days to respond to their complaint, following the approval of their official Notice of Intention.

Their notice was approved by Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella in a letter to Buron, Horvath, Jones, and the Recall Linda Downing Committee dated March 28, 2018.

The committee must also collect enough signatures to represent 25 percent of the voting population in Lacey Township within 160 days to file the petition, according to Buron. “I think we will well exceed that,” she said.

In this Notice of Intention to recall Downing from her position on the board, dated March 27, 2018, they state:

“In her more than two decades in office, Linda Downing has shirked her duties as a board member to exercise proper oversight of Lacey School District policies and fiscal affairs. Downing’s lack of oversight, including ending board self-evaluations, has significantly contributed to a climate within the district where the First and Second Amendment rights of students are repeatedly violated, specifically the extreme and outrageous punishments given to students who did nothing more than lawfully use firearms as posted on their social media…”

The statement of the committee also remarked that Downing remained nearly silent throughout the heated board meeting and cited her as a member on the board since back in 1995 when handbook policies enabling this kind of “unconstitutional” discipline were written.

“We chose to recall Ms. Downing because out of all members of the board she has been in office the longest, and during her tenure she has failed to exercise her oversight role as a board member on multiple occasions, specifically with regard to the school board attorney contract,” said Buron in a statement.

The committee believes that Downing has stood by while the board enacted “outrageous punishments” on students that did not deserve it.

Attempts to reach Downing were unsuccessful as of print time.

Lacey parents and residents are also not big fans of the Board Attorney Christopher Supsie. During the meeting, Supsie referred to the audience of angered parents as “the chicken gallery,” which the committee called “disgraceful.”

Online and on the newly-created Lacey Township BOE Chicken Gallery Facebook, one can find a link to a poll that the committee created to gauge the response from the community. The site labels the committee as “a grassroots campaign of concerned parents who want to restore transparency, accountability and respect for individual rights to the Lacey Township public schools.”

Supsie also did not respond to a request for comments.

If you visit the post, you will find a link to the form that enables you to join up in the effort to recall Downing by signing the petition, helping to collect signatures, or spreading the word via social media.

“I already have 24 people who are willing to help gain petition signatures and I expect that number to rise drastically once the petition is live and circulating,” she said.

The committee intends to see the petition through and perhaps go after the other board members.

“We call on the voters of Lacey to send a message to their elected officials that contempt for taxpayers and individual rights of students will not be tolerated in our township,” Buron said in a statement.