OP-ED: Jennifer Lake Wokebegone

The following is an opinion editorial authored by Todd Bartley, Fox Sports Williamsport, todd@foxsportswilliamsport.com.

So how does a highly trained and qualified mandated reporter fail to call the Myrtle Beach Police Department or even raise concerns for more than two years lead the anti-racism movement in the WASD?

My argument is, Jennifer Lake you missed your moment!

WASD school board member Jennifer Lake who has served in her position for many years is now the loudest voice for change as it relates to systemic racism in the district.

For those that may not know who Lake is, her bio page states: “Jenn has been personally and/or professionally involved in the world of adoption for over 16 years.  In 2016, Jenn began her professional career in Family Advocacy where she has recruited, trained and supported foster and adoptive families on their journey to permanency and beyond. In 2019, Jenn earned the title of TBRI Practitioner through the Karen Purvis Institute of Child Development out of Texas Christian University.

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is a therapeutic model that trains caregivers to provide effective support and treatment for at-risk children. TBRI has been applied in orphanages, courts, residential treatment facilities, group homes, foster and adoptive homes, churches, and schools.

Jenn and her husband, Matt, are passionate champions of caring for orphans and vulnerable children.”

With her biographical information as the backdrop and specifically the references to “provide effective support and treatment for at-risk children” and “passionate champions of caring for orphans and vulnerable children.”

Champions do not allow team trips out of state with no hotel room list or adult chaperones beyond the coaching staff.

Champions call the Myrtle Beach Police Department when they are informed on June 5, 2018 by WASD solicitor Fred Holland of “indecent and inappropriate behavior by a WAHS baseball player.”

The same incident Lycoming County District Attorney Ryan Gardner described as “criminal sexual misconduct”, prior to referring the matter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Shapiro has confirmed to FSW receipt of the case referral.

Champions at a minimum pose questions to district administrators when the story does not add up.

Champions ask for a final report of investigations that are conducted by people who are subordinate to you.

Champions do not sit silent when a fellow WASD board member asks for a second as it relates to opening a third party independent investigation into the “criminal sexual misconduct” incident on the 2018 WAHS baseball team trip to Myrtle Beach during the February 4, 2020 meeting.

After audio surfaces of the WAHS principal misleading the MBPD in regard to the incident; Champions advocate for the firing of that WASD employee and anyone else involved in the cover-up.

For a board member having served multiple terms to omit the word “victim” when referring to a vulnerable child in the WASD “Official Statement” relating to the “criminal sexual misconduct” incident, has failed to be a Champion.

We will revisit the “victim” issue in due course.

Now, this self proclaimed “Champion” wants this community to listen to her when it comes to curing systemic racism within society and specifically in the school district she oversees.

The plan moving forward, follow a piece of paper with a list of grievances.

WASD School Board Adopts Anti-Racist Resolution

On June 23, 2020, in light of recent national events, the Williamsport Area School Board adopted the following anti-racist resolution: 

WHEREAS, we are deeply saddened and outraged by the recent killing of George Floyd and violence against black men and women. The subsequent protests have shined a spotlight on the harmful effects of racism and inequality. Furthermore, the public response has highlighted the racial trauma that our black students, families, staff, and communities have not only endured for centuries but continue to face today.
WHEREAS, we must recognize that racism and hate have no place in our schools and society. However, we must understand that racism is systemic, and it is unconsciously and consciously rooted into our institutions, policies, and practices. Consequently, we acknowledge that we must look at our own school policies and practices through an anti-racist and equity lens to address traces of racism and inequity that still exist within our own school community.
WHEREAS, we must center the voices of staff, students, families, and communities who have historically endured discrimination and marginalization. Their lived experiences and stories require attention, require respect, require empathy, and most importantly require action. Therefore, it is essential that we establish an expectation that a diversity of students, families, and community members, specifically those that have been ignored, discriminated against, and marginalized, are heard and included on substantive school and district issues.
WHEREAS, we must better educate ourselves and seek to educate the community on the historical and current impact of racism and discrimination on our students, families, and communities, as well as understand our role in perpetuating such inequity. Through continuous professional development and opportunities for honest dialogue and listening sessions, we hope to build partnerships in the community focused on overcoming racism and other barriers. By doing so, we can create opportunities to ensure that each child has the tools and supports needed to thrive.
WHEREAS, we must advocate to advance civil rights and cultivate an anti-racist school climate necessary to meet the needs of ALL students in our care. Our students, no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language ability, disability, and other identities, deserve to feel safe, to feel seen, and to feel affirmed.NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Williamsport Area School Board, unequivocally stand firm in our collective responsibility to foster an equitable and inclusive environment for every student, staff member, parent, and community member. We commit to use our role as school board directors to recognize, respond, and speak out against injustice and racial inequity in our school community.

The Resolution is signed by WASD school board president Lori Baer and board Secretary Wanda Erb.

 

FULL STOP.

If a board member is not serving in their first term; could an argument be made that anyone in a second, third or longer term is actually contributing to the underlying issues noted in the Resolution?

Is it fair to say, after 400 years of history on this topic to rely upon, the recent epiphany is a little late?

Is it fair to say, it seems opportunistic?

 

During the Williamsport Area School District board meeting on Tuesday evening, board member Jennifer Lake played a leading role reading an anti-racism resolution into the record prior to its unanimous approval.

So how in good conscience can Jennifer Lake bring forward a resolution addressing a situation that occurred in Minneapolis while failing to address a tragic situation in her own backyard?

The indisputable timeline of insanity regarding the Myrtle Beach incident compared to the anti-racism Resolution unanimously approved last night defies logic.

  • WASD concludes investigation of Myrtle Beach incident June 5, 2018.
  • 19 months later – WASD issues Statement on handling of Myrtle Beach incident January 9, 2020.
  • George Floyd who has never been a student in the WASD is killed in Minnesota on May 25, 2020.
  • Less than 30 days later – WASD school board approves Anti-racism Resolution June 23, 2020
  • The anti-racism Resolution is based on national events including the death of George Floyd.

So Jennifer Lake and her fellow WASD board members had a faster public response to the death of George Floyd than a “criminal sexual misconduct” incident involving students in the district.

How could I forget, child privacy laws prevented the WASD from making a statement – for 19 months!

Jennifer Lake and her fellow WASD board members have been given an opportunity to do the right thing for the better part of the past two years and have yet to act.

Fox Sports Williamsport has published a multi-part series titled, “A Baseball Story” related to the Myrtle Beach incident.

In Part IX of the series, WASD Board Member Adam Cole Welteroth offered a public comment after the February 4, 2020 WASD School Board meeting where he again raised concerns.

For almost two years, the district has remained silent on this matter while being subjected to RTK requests, expanded accusations of wrong done, and a multi part news series on the accounts and handling of the Myrtle Beach incident.

It is time, we as a board take steps to put this matter to rest.

We cannot let students and employees of the district to be smeared in public if they have done nothing wrong.

On the same hand, we cannot let this incident go if any of these allegations and accusations are true.

Either way, we must seek an independent investigation and review of this incident by the district to put this matter to rest.

I have called for it in the past and the public has called for it as well. I make a motion to commission a third party investigation and review of this incident.

It should be contracted to a law firm who does not have a vested interest with the district professionally and/or privately.

The scope of this investigation shall attempt to answer: What happened in Myrtle Beach?

A timeline detailing what the district did in response to the incident.

A review of the districts investigation.

With this motion, I would invite a second by my fellow board members to allow discussion as to why we should not commission a third party investigation and review at this time.

The motion made by Welteroth was met with 10 seconds of stunned silence from the other 8 members of the WASD School Board including President Lori Baer, Vice President Dr. Jane Penman, Patrick Dixon, Barbara Reeves, Marc Schefsky, Star Poole, Dr. Nancy Story Somers and Jennifer Lake as well as WASD Solicitor Fred Holland, multiple WASD administrators and did not receive a second.

Lori Baer, President of the WASD School Board after the 10 seconds of stunned silence, said, “I don’t hear a second, Adam at this point in time. I think this is pry (sic) something that pry (sic) we need to talk about in executive session with legal advisement may not be quite appropriate to do it right now, so…but unless somebody would like to offer a second.”

Welteroth responds, “the second motion is to talk about this it’s not saying (inaudible).”

Baer concludes, “I’m not seeing anybody (inaudible).”

 

So the primordial question is, Jennifer Lake, if you are so concerned with “vulnerable children”, what is the harm in voicing a second?

I’m sure the Floyd family would approve of your efforts, not to mention the family of JOHN DOE #1 and JOHN DOE #2.

Or for you, is it a case of do as I tell you to, but not as I do?

Did you mean to say on your personal Jennifer Lake Facebook page on June 1 at 12:14 PM

Behavior Matching is one of the five Engagement Strategies of Trust Based Relational Intervention. It silences the amygdala (which detects threats) and creates felt-safety. When we mirror someone’s behavior, posture, thoughts, feelings, and interests, we create togetherness. We create connection.

Behavior matching is a bridge between you and me that says, “I see you. I hear you. You matter.”

Do victims of “criminal sexual misconduct” matter to you?

For more than two years you and your fellow board members have failed to “behavior match” reality on this issue which has led to community mistrust.

Instead, here is what JOHN DOE #1 and JOHN DOE #2 hear from you and the rest of the WASD loud and clear.

We don’t see you.

We don’t hear you.

And you sure as hell don’t matter.

 

Jennifer, by your actions and willful disregard for the victims of criminal sexual misconduct makes it well past time for you to immediately step down as a member of the WASD school board.

Your continued participation is only contributing to the systemic problems you so eloquently outlined in the anti-racism Resolution you read into the record last night.

Or will you wait for the State Board of Education to remove you or will you resign in disgrace when the fallout from the Myrtle Beach incident is underway?

This community will not tolerate 4 minutes let alone 400 years of the type of legacy of oversight you are leaving.

 

How Tyra Crews had a prepared statement ready to recommend a paid WASD position in the aftermath of the Resolution approval is under investigation in a Right to Know Request.

As you said on June 14 at 9:28 PMwith Matthew Lake and 2 others

We pray, we gather, we lament and we repent.”

 

With your resignation, the knee will finally come off our collective necks and as you said on June 5 at 1:53 PM

“Williamsport always be a city where all can breathe.”