By John Kerrigan

I was shocked when I read The Valley Reporter’s front-page article about the alleged assault that took place at Harwood on February 1. I was also very concerned with co-principal McDonough’s response.




Her son was told the day before that he was a target. His mother reported the fact that he was to be “jumped” to two teachers and the co-principals. Despite these warnings her son was assaulted. In her reaction to the alleged attack, McDonough shares no responsibility or remorse on the behalf of the administration.

Instead she states that. “We recognize that the concerning behaviors of a few have had a great impact on our community.”  So a student receives threats that he is to be “jumped.” It is reported to teachers and the administration 24 hours before it actually goes down. The attack takes place despite warnings.

After the incident, the administration shows no remorse and does not follow its own guidelines with regards to its bullying policy. Instead we are told “over the past three months, five skilled youth facilitators have been providing dialogue and facilitation training to 50 of their peers through TA dialogues.”

In his book, “The Lord of the Flies” (hopefully still required reading at Harwood Union), the author, William Golding, contends, “that human nature, when free from the constraints of society, draws people away from common sense to savagery. He argues that human beings are savage by nature and are moved by urges toward brutality and dominance over others”.

Let’s not acknowledge the incident. Let’s not reach out to this student, instead we should get a task force together led by students (non-professionals) facilitated by a TA administrator and engage in group discussions. What if student groups draw a conclusion that differs philosophically from that of the administration?

The Harwood administration has promoted student voice as long as everyone is in harmony. If not, it becomes a liability. This was evident during the tenure of Amy Rex. The administration made the decision to remove honors classes over a strong united student voice.

High school students have not had a profusion of life experiences. The prospect of students making this critical decision is frightening.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best; “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”

While these student run focus groups and are discussing their options, how many more students will be shoved, choked or have food thrown at them by bullies.  




According to Ms. McDonough, “not all misbehaviors fall within the ability to intervene here at school.” If that is true, why not contact DCF and let them investigate the home-life of students who bully. Not justifying it, but there may be contributing factors to their behavior. It appears that McDonough is more concerned about the legal rights of the aggressors than the needs of the alleged victim.

Years ago, we had hall monitors that knew the kids, knew the families, talked with the students. They had the pulse of the student body. Loopy Quinones was one of these. She was replaced with a high price administrator.   

Public schools are places where teenagers are supposed to get excited about learning, mingle with like-minded teenagers and feel safe anywhere in the building.

What kinds of lessons have the assaulters, the assaulted and those that witnessed the incident in real time or otherwise learning?

What happens when the word of this incident and the lack of response get out to the community? Dozens of Harwood students have already transferred to private schools or have taken up home schooling. Will there be more? Harwood will have a much smaller student body with a small posse of vigilantes running the school!  

The collective salary of the superintendent, two co-principals (why do we have two?), head TA and director of student services is well over half a million dollars. Yet, they cannot keep just one student safe from bullying and bodily harm.

The competency of these administrators and their inability to maintain a safe environment for students is very concerning. 

Harwood Union faculty members have not been in the loop concerning the alleged attack. Many teachers that I talked with were not even aware of this incident. Even without knowledge of this assault, many teachers at Harwood have suggested there should be a vote of no confidence for the present Harwood administration.

The newly-organized Harwood school board may want to consider eliminating some of these high-paying administrative positions and replace them with qualified hall monitors.

Our students have suffered from over two years of isolation, public health mandates and limits on their social activities. Let’s enable all students to feel safe at school. Come on Harwood administration is this the best you can do? Our students deserve better!

If you would like to voice your concerns about this matter, please contact the Harwood Unified Union School District Board (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Kerrigan lives in Duxbury.