UPDATE: Dunkerton school superintendent under fire for controversial assembly

2012-03-14T06:30:00Z 2012-07-29T09:43:00Z UPDATE: Dunkerton school superintendent under fire for controversial assemblyBy DENNIS MAGEE, dennis.magee@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

DUNKERTON, Iowa --- Participants at a special school board meeting Tuesday night applauded vigorously when Superintendent Jim Stanton read proposed reforms.

The measures, including parental notification and more extensive review of potential performers allowed in the Dunkerton school, are designed to block controversial presentations like the one offered last week. Members of Junkyard Prophet and You Can Run But You Cannot Hide infuriated many in the district with their views on homosexuality and by showing students images of aborted fetuses.

"We're looking to make this a community effort," Stanton said. "It's time for us to get out of the quagmire."

Despite initial enthusiasm in the audience, the first speaker to address board members moments later called for Stanton to step aside.

"The kids are suffering over this deal and, Mr. Stanton, you signed the checks," Tim Westergreen said. "I respectfully ask for your resignation."

Others echoed the demand, including Dave Lingenfelter, a parent.

"Everybody is still ticked off. As a community we're going to get past this. But it's time for him to go," Lingenfelter said.

Becky Reichen, a resident in Dunkerton, said there has been "nothing but heartache" for students and staff since Stanton joined the district. She offered no specifics, however.

Reichen also raised the issue of who was with the students during Junkyard Prophet's breakout sessions. She did not like Stanton's answer.

"Did everybody get that? In the small groups there was no adult supervision," Reichen relayed to the audience.

Lingenfelter pressed for information on how much and who investigated the group.

"I took the advice of the Principal (Mike Cooper,)" Stanton said. "I did not make any phone calls."

Board member Kirby Marquart had a difficult time containing his comments as speakers praised Junkyard Prophet's message.

"Not in a public school. It's against the law," Marquart said.

He, too, suggested serious ramifications for Stanton.

"It should have been stopped. You don't screw up that bad and expect to keep his job," Marquart said.

Board member Tony Gamerdinger later suggested Marquart sit with the audience, and Marquart did leave the dais set up in the school auditorium.

As emotions overflowed and the meeting devolved into a shouting match controlled by the loudest voice, board President Alen Nagel called for orderly, respectful exchanges.

"We're going to stop this meeting if we don't get positive comments," Nagel said.

Stanton received significant endorsements as well. Board members Jon Cox and Gamerdinger said after the meeting they had no interest in Stanton's resignation, and Nagel said he saw no need either. Cindi Rigdon said she was uncertain what, if any, action the board might take.

Stanton said he had no plans to quit.

During the meeting, Rhonda Pollock, a parent, shared her views as a former employee.

"Mr. Stanton has changed the school for the better," she said. "We need to support him.'

D.J. Manahl said he backed the superintendent and board members who are trying to sort through the emotional upheaval.

"Mr. Stanton has my full support. You all have my full support," Manahl said.

"All we need to do is move forward," he added.

To do that, Stanton proposed an action plan that includes counseling for students and staff members adversely affected by Junkyard Prophet's appearance. He added the district will also be bolstering its diversity curriculum and forming a review committee to screen potential school assemblies. Committee members will include teachers, students, residents and school board members.

Another new measure would be to require permission slips from parents before allowing a student to participate in a school assembly.

"It will be for every assembly," Stanton said.

As part of the remedy, Iowa Safe Schools will visit the Dunkerton school next week. The organization is a task force organized by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in 2002. Its board of directors includes school administrators, teachers, professors and Eric Tabor, chief of staff for the Iowa Attorney General's Office. Its executive director is Nate Monson.

"I checked them out once, twice, three times before I was going to invite them into our school," Stanton said.

Student Bethany Fish was among those Tuesday night expressing overall concern for the issue is doing to the community.

"We're destroying ourselves over this," she said.

Trevor Rigdon, the school's football coach, shared a similar view.

"It has been very disturbing, the whole thing. It's been hurtful," he said. "I hope that somehow this whole community comes together."

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(27) Comments

  1. Kernel
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    Kernel - March 19, 2012 9:59 am
    thepigfarmerswife said: "You want something that will really make you think when it comes to abortion? Check out the youtube video Abortions and Crime: Freakonomics. It's a segment covering the research conducted by Steve Levitt. Now that will truly make you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk6gOeggViw&feature=related "

    It's an amazing study that is worth discussing. No one likes to think about it in such cold terms, but let's be honest here about what causes crime, what we can do to prevent it, and what's best for our family and country. Every time some kid commits a crime, it goes back to the parents, and you can't change people's willingness to be a good role model for their children. People don't want to support the impoverished, but they also want to shackle them to kids they didn't want to have, which perpetuates a cycle of crime and poverty.

    It's a difficult reality, but many truths are.
  2. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - March 19, 2012 9:21 am
    thepigfarmerswife said: "You want something that will really make you think when it comes to abortion? Check out the youtube video Abortions and Crime: Freakonomics. It's a segment covering the research conducted by Steve Levitt. Now that will truly make you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk6gOeggViw&feature=related"

    It's not like these people care about facts. The vast majority of arguments against legalization are emotional and religious, not logical.
  3. thepigfarmerswife
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    thepigfarmerswife - March 15, 2012 11:51 pm
    You want something that will really make you think when it comes to abortion? Check out the youtube video Abortions and Crime: Freakonomics. It's a segment covering the research conducted by Steve Levitt. Now that will truly make you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk6gOeggViw&feature=related
  4. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - March 15, 2012 11:16 am
    TruthSeeker said: "Can you post the links you found?"

    I typed 'junkyard prophets' into google. The first 2 non-paid links are links to religious music videos (Remember Me and Why), the band's MySpace page, featuring both of those songs, and a third one: Meetin' Thy Maker, three links about the current issues in Dunkerton from around the US, a UK article about the same topic, the You Can Run website, describing the band as a "Controversial... Christian rap, metal outfit" and that "the group feels as if the world is a junkyard which needs to be confronted with the Word of God."

    Continuing with our google search, the next link is the band's official blog, where every single post appears to either contain bible quotes, or a biblically based message.

    Another link about Dunkerton.

    A wikipedia link describing both the band as christian, and various other bait-and-switch issues with the band, and other constitutional violations they have carried out in the past.

    And, finally another link about Dunkerton.

    Since so many of the links are about Dunkerton, and not relevant to reviewing the group prior to them coming, let's see if we can find a single link on google's second page that makes it look like it would not be a terrible idea to invite this group into a school -- let alone *pay* them to come into the school.

    Two more religiously based music videos, 3 more Dunkerton links -- again, international stories, a Last.fm review of the band -- again, stating they are a Christian Band, and listing their religious songs, 2 more Dunkerton links, another music review site, again, stating they are a religious band -- with samples of their religious songs to listen to -- in case you missed the youtube videos already returned.

    A site asking 'What would Jesus Rap', and another Dunkerton link.

    So, honestly, how in the world could anyone do *ANY* research into this group and think it was OK? Digging a little farther, under the Dunkerton links flooding the results, I can *EASILY* find stories about this controversy from *before* Dunkerton...
  5. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - March 15, 2012 9:09 am
    TruthSeeker said: "bigblue: Unless you were there, you really don't know what happened. A couple of students made accusations about the group, which other students said were not true. I'm still waiting to hear what the unconstitutional message was."

    Once again, thanks to modern technology, the videos of this event are available for *everyone* to watch -- not just those that physically attended. Funny how you keep ignoring that, just like you keep ignoring the constitution. Seems like that is a major tool you use to justify your world-view -- ignore everything that you disagree with, or proves you wrong.
  6. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - March 15, 2012 9:07 am
    TruthSeeker said: "What was the religious message? You call them "fanatics" because of their Christian beliefs and you don't consider yourself a christophobe?"

    I have no fear of the christians -- in fact, I know many religious people. I work with them, and many of the people I consider friends are christian. The thing you are ignoring, once again, that this is *not* about what their religious message was -- the issue is that they were portraying a religious message as 'fact' to a captive audience of public school children -- and were paid tax money to do it.

    What is your evidence that this was *not* a religious message? Lets see some scientific evidence to back up their claims -- from legitimate studies, and not from religious groups. Oh, that's right - there are none. Funny how that works. You don't have to quote the bible to be pushing a religious message, you just need to find discredited studies that agree with the bible, and present those.
  7. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - March 15, 2012 9:02 am
    TruthSeeker said: "And no one is afraid of homosexuals here either, they are just pointing out that homosexuality is a destructive and sinful lifestyle that shouldn't be portrayed as virtuous to impressionable school children. There was nothing unconstitutional about the group's presentation (did you know it's actually legal to teach a class about the Bible in a public school?). The closest they came to anything religious was when they quoted the Declaration of Independence. The day we ban the Declaration and the Constitution from public schools because they contain references to the Creator will be a very sad day in this country indeed. Oh, wait, that has already happened in some schools."

    No one presents homosexuality as 'virtuous' -- this is just more of the christian extremists pretending their opposition is doing something they are not.

    As for teaching the bible in school, are you aware that there is a difference between teaching *about* the bible, and teaching that the bible is fact? You actually don't want a legal class talking about the bible in schools, as it would show the actual, documented and academic studies of that book, and it's origins, the last thing you want. This group *clearly* had a religious agenda, as they were spouting disproven studies, lies, and christian bigotry against all common sense. They are a religious group, that protrayed a religious message as 'fact' in clear violation of the constitution, and ethics.
  8. I Scream In The Sun
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    I Scream In The Sun - March 15, 2012 6:33 am
    Truthseeker, just type "junkyard prophets you can run but you cannot hide" into google, and even on the first page of results you'll see such phrases as "offensive message" and "anti-gay". The pages after that list numerous news articles about other school districts who have fallen victim to this group's surprises. Just the sort of thing that should have raised a red flag, should have made somebody do a little bit of background check on the people they were going to let take students into classrooms without any faculty present to monitor what sort of messages they had.

    Nothing offensive or inappropriate in what they said? I don't think there is ever an appropriate time to show pictures of an aborted fetus in school. Maybe if they were dissecting them in science class, but I doubt that. Also how about their message that a woman's purpose in life is to be subservient to a husband?

    And as for their anti-gay messages, since in this day and age a person's sexuality is a protected class the same as their race is, it is clearly unacceptable for them to be in a school setting lecturing the students that people who are homosexual are living destructive sinful lives, that it is wrong to be that way and that, as their religion says they should do for all people if they really "love" them, we must try and pressure them to stop being homosexual. Just because they cited some "facts" which include ones proven to have been false propaganda, does not mean you can say "Oh well they were just stating facts, so there was no message only truth being spoken which happened to support them". When the message is discriminating against people's sexual orientation, it is not appropriate to be taught in schools.

    Picture this, what if they also had a message of segregation? They could have pointed out a government statistic that 50% of the violent crimes are committed by a race that only makes up 13% of the population, so, "just stating facts," it is a destructive and dangerous thing to be part of that race, so we must all make sure to discriminate against anyone who would think of associating with those people. Just like they claimed the average homosexual will die at age 42, they could use the same sort of statistical "facts" (and even using REAL facts) to show that because of how much more dangerous that race is, anyone thinking of hanging out with them or, EVEN WORSE, marrying one of "them", would definitely be putting themselves in a destructive lifestyle which will lead to an early death. Just as AIDS is the main risk associated with homosexuality, AIDS is also a higher risk among that race, so it's just as valid to say that it would be dangerous and destructive to be with anyone of that race, so we need to remember to segregate and stay away from them and the dangers they pose. It's just facts, after all. It's all equally valid arguments. It's all equally discriminatory. And it all equally has no place being taught in schools, since when they brought in these adults to talk to the students, leaving them in charge of classrooms to talk to them, they put these people into the role of an instructor. In this role, they delivered a message which was discriminatory against homosexuals and against gender equality.

    I just don't get why nobody did a background check on them, just even as simple as the google search mentioned above. That would have been enough to make them stop and evaluate if they wanted to join the ranks of the other school districts in uproar over the bait-and-switch surprise of this group pushing their religious ideals upon the students. It isn't the religious part that is bad, it is the discrimination part. It would be one thing if they had only said something like "God gave you a body to do great things with, please don't destroy it using drugs and alcohol". But they did far more than that. They delivered messages of discrimination and intolerance against people of protected classes such as sexual orientation.

    If the school was just looking for an anti-drug, anti-bullying message, they could have found plenty of other groups which have much less controversial backgrounds, and much less secondary agendas. Instead they ended up with a group that advocates discrimination based on the ideals of their religion.
  9. Manning
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    Manning - March 15, 2012 1:54 am
    guesswho said: "i wonder how much research was done on this group, because it took me less then 10 minutes to find where other schools have this same complaint about this group. that the information they received about this group was that they where anti drugs and so forth but once in the school they went left wing with what they where preaching. i mean if i can find this why couldn't they?"

    Can you post the links you found?
  10. Manning
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    Manning - March 15, 2012 1:51 am
    bigblue said: "Mr. Marquart, Thank you for defending the Constitution. This presentation was bad for the school district: it encouraged bullying rather than tolerance (they mocked the kids who left the presentation!) and opened up the school district for (completely valid!) lawsuits. Errors like this can wind up taking money away from valuable educational programs. Moreover, targeting gay students can lead to suicide, as we have seen so many times before. If you have a religious message to share, it needs to be on your own time -- and your own dime."

    bigblue: Unless you were there, you really don't know what happened. A couple of students made accusations about the group, which other students said were not true. I'm still waiting to hear what the unconstitutional message was.
  11. Manning
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    Manning - March 15, 2012 1:49 am
    IowanAtheist said: "You are missing the point -- it's not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with the message of these fanatics. That's beside the point. The point is that they were not supposed to have a religious message at all."

    What was the religious message?

    You call them "fanatics" because of their Christian beliefs and you don't consider yourself a christophobe?
  12. Manning
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    Manning - March 15, 2012 1:47 am
    IowanAtheist said: "Looks like you need to watch the videos -- and read these comments. I have yet to see a single 'christophobe' here -- no one is afraid of the christians, they are just pointing out that this was unconstitutional."

    And no one is afraid of homosexuals here either, they are just pointing out that homosexuality is a destructive and sinful lifestyle that shouldn't be portrayed as virtuous to impressionable school children.

    There was nothing unconstitutional about the group's presentation (did you know it's actually legal to teach a class about the Bible in a public school?). The closest they came to anything religious was when they quoted the Declaration of Independence. The day we ban the Declaration and the Constitution from public schools because they contain references to the Creator will be a very sad day in this country indeed. Oh, wait, that has already happened in some schools.
  13. Just wondering
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    Just wondering - March 14, 2012 9:12 pm
    It has come to my attention today a student called an assembly of students grades 9-12 and they were asked to sign a letter/poster of support for Mr. Stanton......guess the "new" policy doesn't take affect until when???? Did it ever occur to anyone not all students support Mr. Stanton but felt pressured to sign...another bullying tactic?? When are the secrets going to stop, when is the bullying going to stop? Healing can not begin until it stops and my guess it it is going to continue. Shame, shame, shame.
  14. kruser
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    kruser - March 14, 2012 8:57 pm
    If you hire a bunch of clowns, you're going to have a circus.
  15. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - March 14, 2012 2:11 pm
    guesswho said: "i wonder how much research was done on this group, because it took me less then 10 minutes to find where other schools have this same complaint about this group. that the information they received about this group was that they where anti drugs and so forth but once in the school they went left wing with what they where preaching. i mean if i can find this why couldn't they?"

    Correction -- right wing.
  16. guesswho
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    guesswho - March 14, 2012 12:54 pm
    i wonder how much research was done on this group, because it took me less then 10 minutes to find where other schools have this same complaint about this group. that the information they received about this group was that they where anti drugs and so forth but once in the school they went left wing with what they where preaching. i mean if i can find this why couldn't they?
  17. ThinkingMan
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    ThinkingMan - March 14, 2012 12:30 pm
    It has been discovered that there is in fact a diverse group of people living in this community (sic) and in the world. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

    For all of you who do not live in this community maybe you should restrain yourselves from stirring the pot or if you feel you can offer some good constructive ways to turn all of this turmoil, both sides of the issue, into a teachable moment, either shut it or buy a home here and be q productive member of society.

    No matter how you look at this one set of beliefs is trying to push their beliefs and agenda on anyone with a differing set of beliefs no matter how miniscule the difference.

    The city and school matters are past the point of embarrassment, not just because they occurred, but because of all the opinionated individuals who have never made a mistake in their lives offering their "free" (worthless) opinions on how this should be construed which again, is one person is trying to push their belief on others.

    All of you (those directly affected and those who just keep stirring the pot to see what happens) need to put your big boy panties or big girl panties on, deal with it, and get on with life.

    More can be learned from life’s mistakes that successes - mistakes have been made by many people on many sides - let's not keep repeating and re-hashing this.

    Ever wonder why this community is not growing?

    THE HORSE IS DEAD!!!!!
  18. responsibleparty
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    responsibleparty - March 14, 2012 12:00 pm
    I thought the article a very fair rendering of what happened at the meeting. There were a couple of people who spoke out in favor of the assembly, but the vast majority of folks attending were upset about what had happened. Most of the "ugly" discussion was between the groups supporting "the superintendent needs to be fired for what happened" perspective and the faction wanting to stop assigning blame and move forward. So the question now is, can the folks who feel the need to make someone pay for what happened move forward without exacting their retribution? Only time will tell.
  19. raidernation
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    raidernation - March 14, 2012 12:00 pm
    Members of school boards are held to a code of ethics...these ethics were ignored last night and this fact needs to be addressed.
  20. bigblue
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    bigblue - March 14, 2012 11:21 am
    Mr. Marquart, Thank you for defending the Constitution. This presentation was bad for the school district: it encouraged bullying rather than tolerance (they mocked the kids who left the presentation!) and opened up the school district for (completely valid!) lawsuits. Errors like this can wind up taking money away from valuable educational programs. Moreover, targeting gay students can lead to suicide, as we have seen so many times before. If you have a religious message to share, it needs to be on your own time -- and your own dime.
  21. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - March 14, 2012 11:08 am
    TruthSeeker said: "I used to think Dennis Magee was a good journalist, but his reporting on this whole issue has caused me to rethink that. From reading this story, you would think everyone at the meeting was against the group and their message. Only one single line gives an inkling that such was not the case: "Board member Kirby Marquart had a difficult time containing his comments as speakers praised Junkyard Prophet's message." This is the very reason I went to the meeting Monday night. You can't trust the media to accurately report the news anymore."

    You are missing the point -- it's not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with the message of these fanatics. That's beside the point. The point is that they were not supposed to have a religious message at all.

  22. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - March 14, 2012 11:06 am
    TruthSeeker said: "The only hateful comments I have seen in this whole thing are from you and the other christophobes. There was nothing hateful about anything the group said. "

    Looks like you need to watch the videos -- and read these comments. I have yet to see a single 'christophobe' here -- no one is afraid of the christians, they are just pointing out that this was unconstitutional.
  23. cfreader
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    cfreader - March 14, 2012 9:37 am
    It amazes me that people think acting like a Jerry Springer show is going to be constructive. That meeting was ridiculous. Try acting like and adult for once and set a good example for your children. I guess yelling and screaming and act like white trash is the way you get things done in Dunkerton. (see last council meeting regarding police chief). It's sad when the kids act more grown up than the adults do. What future do these people's kids have when they see their parents act like a fool. For the record, I do NOT agree with the message of this group, my problem is the way the parents handled it. As far as I can tell, there was no INTENT by the school to push any agenda and it was an honest mistake, they were trying to do something good. Get over yourselves and stop being so white trash.
  24. Manning
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    Manning - March 14, 2012 9:35 am
    I used to think Dennis Magee was a good journalist, but his reporting on this whole issue has caused me to rethink that. From reading this story, you would think everyone at the meeting was against the group and their message. Only one single line gives an inkling that such was not the case: "Board member Kirby Marquart had a difficult time containing his comments as speakers praised Junkyard Prophet's message."

    This is the very reason I went to the meeting Monday night. You can't trust the media to accurately report the news anymore.
  25. Manning
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    Manning - March 14, 2012 9:18 am
    Scream, I think you are misinterpreting the comment. I don't think he was saying people had to say something positive about the group or their presentation; I think he was talking about the tone of the comments and the overall atmosphere of the meeting. This is especially evident if you read his comment in context. The sentence leading up to it says:

    "As emotions overflowed and the meeting devolved into a shouting match controlled by the loudest voice, board President Alen Nagel called for orderly, respectful exchanges".

    Shouting matches don't accomplish anything; they just feed anger. He was saying that the meeting needed to be conducted in a more positive way, not that the comments had to be positive about the group. It's ridiculous that you would read it that way. This is part of the problem with people forming their opinion solely on the basis of what they read or hear in the media. Often times the information is incomplete and as a result the reader or viewer makes incorrect assumptions about what actually happened. It is also the case that sometimes the reader/viewer isn't capable of interpreting the information properly and/or is so closed minded that they only accept that which reinforces their view, and reject that which does not.

    The only hateful comments I have seen in this whole thing are from you and the other christophobes. There was nothing hateful about anything the group said.
  26. responsibleparty
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    responsibleparty - March 14, 2012 9:12 am
    The concerns of the parents were aired for probably an hour and a half. Anyone who wanted to speak got the chance. It was only when things really started getting ugly and nonproductive that the meeting was stopped.

  27. I Scream In The Sun
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    I Scream In The Sun - March 14, 2012 6:28 am
    " “We’re going to stop this meeting if we don’t get positive comments,” Nagel said."

    It's like they say, if you can't say something nice about allowing a religious extremist hate group to lecture students in classrooms without oversight, don't say anything at all.

    Why threaten to stop the meeting if all the comments are negative? Good bad or ugly, the whole point is to be a medium in which the concerns of the parents can be expressed. Saying that the meeting would end if they did not start also addressing things of a positive nature is like telling a rape victim "Look, I'm done listening if all you're gonna do is complain about what your attacker did".
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