A state representative that issued a stinging press release calling for the resignation of a Goose Creek CISD teacher over a controversial assignment, which led to threats on the teacher and district officials, was apparently already aware how the district planned to handle the situation.
District 128 Rep. Briscoe Cain sent out a press release dated Tuesday calling for a teacher at Highlands Junior to be fired. This was in response to the teacher handing her seventh-grade students an assignment requiring them to read 10 student-written essays and then determine what they inferred. The idea was to increase the student’s critical thinking skills.
One of the passages was a student-written essay taken from Youth Voices, an online educational program, titled “Trump Against American Values.”
The press release, and a subsequent Facebook post on the representative’s page, led to heated discussions online as well as threats being made on some district officials.
“The point is Cain knew of the situation and how it was being handled well before he issued a press release,” said Beth Dombrowa, Goose Creek CISD spokeswoman. “He knew how the district was going to handle it and knew it was a school district decision. He does not have oversight of the school, and it should have ended here.”
The initial update placed on Cain’s Facebook post about the teacher’s assignment said staff had received an update at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday.
Dombrowa asked on the post’s
comment section if staff was sure they did not mean Monday or even Sunday.
Bergundi Cain, Briscoe Cain’s wife,
responded saying that was not the intent of the update.
“I ‘might’ have gone off on a staffer for not putting in the post that the superintendent was notified prior to this post and the issue is being addressed,” Bergundi Cain posted. “It was suggested to update the post, and it doesn’t read correctly in my mind, either.”
Dombrowa thanked Bergundi Cain and added that the update was confusing since it was “well documented that Briscoe was notified well before the press release was even released.”
Dombrowa said a text exchange between Rep. Cain and O’Brien made on Sunday should have been included in Cain’s press release.
The Baytown Sun has made a public information request for the texts but had not received them before deadline.
“No matter now, although I am sure you would have been equally disturbed by the threatening phone calls our district received today after the press release was issued,” Dombrowa posted.
Bergundi Cain posted she agreed and was “furious” the information about communications with O’Brien had not been included in the release. She was also upset about the threats.
“I do not know why people can’t communicate respectfully,” Bergundi Cain said. “I’m sorry you guys are fielding threatening phone calls. It’s okay for parents to communicate their views on an issue, but please do it respectfully.”
Cain’s Facebook post now has a new update.
“Prior to the release of this information, Goose Creek CISD Superintendent Randal O’Brien informed Rep. Cain that he was aware of the issue and had taken corrective action,” the post read. “It is our understanding that he and his administration have done all that state law allows them to do at this time. Superintendent O’Brien is and remains the right man for the job.”
Cain’s press release mentions a parent, Chris Felder, who claims his seventh-grade child, a student in the teacher’s Highlands Junior School classroom, was exposed to the “indoctrination exercise.”
Dombrowa was asked if anyone else besides Felder had complained about the assignment.
“I’ve not heard of any other complaints, other than what I’ve seen on Facebook,” Dombrowa said. “But I have no idea who are parents and who aren’t.”
The assignment does not appear to be leading toward the district scrutinizing assignments closer to avoid any that might be construed as politically divisive.
“There hasn’t been any specific discussions (on this) that I’m aware of,” Dombrowa said. “It was handled at the campus level.”
Rep. Cain was asked for further comments Wednesday but was not able to respond.
The questions put to Rep. Cain are:
•Did Mr. Cain speak to the district about his desire to have a teacher fired before posting the release online? If not, why not? If so, when and to whom?
•Has Mr. Cain spoken to anyone at the district since the release was posted? If so, who and approximately what time?
•Does Mr. Cain know anything about the teacher other than this assignment and does he still stand by his call that she should be fired? No second chance for her?
•Would Mr. Cain do anything differently considering all the threats the school and district are getting now?