Calls for resignation of school superintendent, committee chair made by two residents

May 19, 2023

MIDDLEBORO — Two community residents, including a former School Committee member, called for the resignation of Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Lyons and School Committee Chair Rich Young Thursday night in the wake of a lawsuit filed against the town and schools.

“I no longer trust that either of you have the best interests of our children in mind,’’ former School Committee member Teresa Farley said during the public comment portion of the May 18 School Committee.

On Wednesday, May 17, a lawsuit was filed in federal court against the town and school system for forbidding a middle school student from wearing a shirt with the message “There are only two genders,’’ saying the prohibition violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

The suit, Morrison v. Town of Middleboro, was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of Nichols Middle School student Liam Morrison, 12, who was told to remove the shirt by school officials on March 21. He was subsequently told to remove a different shirt that read “There are (censored) Genders’’ on May 5.

That suit “could have been avoided,’’ Farley said, if Lyons had “effectively brought together students who were either offended or hurt by a shirt worn by another student.’’ Instead, Farley said, “your response has been to stand your ground and refuse to have the conversation.’’

Farley also said that Young could have reached out to legal counsel and allowed fellow School Committee members to have a conversation on the issue but did not take that step.

Resident Ashley Oatway also called for Lyons and Young to resign. 

Noting that the lawsuit could ultimately cost the town money, she said that Young “has the duty to protect School Committee members and the taxpayers, not the superintendent.’’

She also urged School Committee members to speak up. “You’re not only able but expected to question district policies as well as the superintendent,’’ she said. “For anyone to suggest otherwise is nothing but an attempt to silence you.’’

School Committee members have not directly addressed the issue in public. In calls for comment from Nemasket Week, the committee members either did not respond or avoided comment, citing potential litigation.

Lyons has not directly commented on the T-shirt or the lawsuit. But she did say at the April 27 School Committee meeting that “the dividing line for me as this district’s leader is when all students are not protected, when all students are not accepted for who they are and are told, either directly or indirectly, that they don’t belong here in Middleboro.’’

Young said the district has been repeatedly reminded that Massachusetts schools have deemed transgender students as a “protected class. The school is doing what it is supposed to be doing to protect those children.’’

Neither Lyons nor Young responded to the calls for their resignation.