Amy Roberts: Long jumping to conclusions
If jumping to conclusions counted as exercise, most of us would have the physique of an Olympian right now.
Last week it was widely reported that a rock was thrown through a window of the home of the Park City School District superintendent. To tweak a famous saying, “Assumptions got halfway around the state before the truth had a chance to get its pants on.”
It turned out there was no vandalism. There wasn’t even a rock.
A stress fracture caused the window to break. There’s a lot to process and digest with this situation — all of it rather unfortunate. But from my view, I think the most unfortunate is general response. Somehow, the best possible outcome has widened the divide when we should be pausing with collective appreciation to say, “I’m relieved the woman in charge of our education system wasn’t actually targeted.”
It’s often said, “There are three sides to every story. Your side, my side, and the truth.” The third side is offered as an alternative because each person involved in the story has a history of unique experiences that has created their unique perspective, which shapes their memory of events. It doesn’t mean both sides or wrong or anyone is lying, it simply means their truths aren’t aligned. That’s pretty much the sole reason we have judges. Situations might be black and white, but the people experiencing them see in gray.
Which is why I think this misunderstanding is actually kind of understandable.
Two months ago, the principal at Trailside Elementary announced a new professional development program called Welcoming Schools, which is designed to help educators prevent bias-based bullying. Within a few weeks of this announcement, an anonymous group of parents formed a Stop Welcoming Schools coalition and retained legal counsel, including the services of the Pacific Justice Institute, which is designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Needless to say, this all got a bit contentious and it’s difficult to de-escalate things when one side is hiding their identity and there are lawyers are involved.
On the heels of the controversy about the professional development program, information made the rounds on social media and by way of a Channel 2 news truck that the superintendent’s home, which was purchased by the school district about a year ago, needed about $200,000 in repairs and a portion of this money would be spent on a heated driveway.
The way some reacted, you would have thought an entire season of RuPaul’s Drag Race was going to be filmed in the driveway with the kids at Trailside Elementary as judges.
Neighbors posted their complaints to social media, which wasn’t the problem. What is social media for if not venting? But some took it took it another step and included the superintendent’s address. Which might not be wrong, but it doesn’t really feel right, either. Then came comments inviting people to stop by and inspect their tax dollars at work, with some chiming in it was their right to do just that. Another offered to make sure the heated driveway wouldn’t work, and a few other thinly veiled references to vandalism followed. A Salt Lake news station reporting live from the scene didn’t exactly calm tensions. And then, a window in the house broke.
It’s easy to sit back and Monday morning quarterback this. After all, logic would question how a rock can be thrown through a window when there’s no rock to be found. But logic isn’t the default mode when our emotions are calling the plays. We all make imaginative leaps based on how we feel in any given moment. Evidence and emotion aren’t on the same team. When we are frightened or feel threatened, we come to different conclusions than we do when we feel welcomed and safe.
I wonder how many people who take issue with the superintendent’s housing also feel it’s their right to inspect the White House or the Governor’s Mansion in Salt Lake? I would argue the residents of both those homes do a whole lot less for public education than the local superintendent of schools does.
It’s also important to remember, the decision to purchase the home was made by the school board — who we collectively elected. And this purchase was funded by a capital surplus — there wasn’t a tax increase. In fact, you might argue the school board invested wisely and saved money and was then able to purchase an appreciating asset.
But above all, remember they did this because this town demands the very best. And if you have different ideas on how to attract the very best, I expect to see your name on the ballot next November.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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“Our community is fluid,” columnist Teri Orr writes. “Yet our actions are increasing rigid … and honestly — tired and stuck and unimaginative and nowhere near … .”