On a recent Friday (April 5), I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon in Rutland Middle School speaking to Mr. Lindgren’s and Ms. Geno’s history classes. What I observed there was both enlightening and disturbing.

What was enlightening to me was how well-behaved, respectful and attentive these seventh-graders were, both of me and of their teachers. I deem this enlightening because it flies completely in the face of what I have been reading in the Herald about what is going on of late in the middle school.

I went to the school nervous and braced for the worst, based on the quotes of an angry parent at a recent School Board meeting who spoke in the broadest of terms while condemning the middle School administration and staff. The parent said that middle school students were out of control, creating dangers and distractions for their fellow students.

As mentioned above, I observed exactly none of this. And this leads to the disturbing part of my visit.

What was disturbing was that the opinion (of) a few parents, about a small minority of students, could be used in vilifying the middle school administration, faculty and students. I would hope that, in the future, the reporter and/or editor make a better attempt to speak with Mrs. Hathaway, the middle school principal, rather than offer a rather weak excuse that (sources are) “unavailable for comment.” To have presented a more balanced view, perhaps, would have given the principal a chance to defend her school and the Herald’s readership a clearer account of what is actually going on at the school.

What was disturbing was finding that these children are being unfairly vilified because of the actions of a few students. To be certain, all seventh-graders are not “perfect,” just like no age group in the history of humanity has ever been able to declare itself “perfect.” Further, it is not as though these “problem” children are not worthy of our hope for their redemption. They most certainly are, and they should never have been condemned in public forum irrespective of what they were doing or where they were doing it.

As a community, we owe it to all students to be supportive of them, to respect them and to do all that we can to ensure their success. After all, their success will be our success, as well.

It was an honor to be able to speak before these students and their teachers. It was a pleasure to engage with such bright, respectful and polite young people. I urge our community to see these students as the bright and hopeful future that they are and not how they are currently being portrayed.

The Rev. Liam Muller is Trinity Episcopal Church rector. He is married to the Rutland Middle School Planning Room teacher.

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