SANDOWN – Atkinson resident Beth Blomquist, stating that she was representing a coalition of citizens concerned with the direction of the Timberlane Regional School District, gave her and the group’s support to a Timberlane teacher suing the district and its superintendent, Earl Metzler.
Sandown is one of four towns in Timberlane – the others are Plaistow, Atkinson and Danville.
Blomquist raised the issue during public comment at the Timberlane Regional School District board’s June 18 meeting, surrounded by a few supporters.
Carolyn Morse, a Spanish teacher for 11 years at Timberlane Regional High School, has filed a lawsuit against the district and Metzler that argues that her free speech rights were violated after she was disciplined for commenting on social media about district matters.
“Tonight we choose to sit before you in support of Carolyn Morse, the plaintiff, and fully endorse the requests she made in the filing,” said Blomquist.
In her complaint Morse’s attorney states that she was “severely disciplined, and subjected to retaliation” after she posted on Facebook questioning the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES) program.
FLES is overseen by Metzler’s wife, Elizabeth Metzler.
The suit alleges that Morse was initially investigated after she made the post and then again after complaining about the actions taken against her, allegedly, to her students.
The social media post in question reads, “I don’t mean to come into this conversation this late in the game but I did want to point out a couple things about fles since I am a language teacher at the high school. First, to say no one else in the state of nh has fles certification is untrue and we have a Spanish teacher right at our school that currently holds this certification. But second and more importantly, whoever the consultant may be. It is their job to create curriculum, hire, check up on, mentor, etc. but we currently have been asked as high school Spanish teachers to tutor one of the fles kindergarten teachers as she goes for certification. Shouldn’t this be the job of the consultant and not paying us additional money that comes from the sau? Don’t get me wrong, the high school is ecstatic about a kindergarten program but I feel people should know and hopefully that issue will resolve.”
The suit alleges that Morse was told by Metzler that she could be dismissed on the spot by the board and prompted her to waive her right to a hearing before the board, that the laptop and desktop computers provided to her for teaching purposes were confiscated as part of an investigation, students with her class were questioned, and despite requests, she was denied access to a report created from those investigations.
The suit, among other items, seeks Morse’s reinstatement as Department Coordinator for World Languages (a position that came with a stipend of $3,500), reimbursement for her suspension of three days, and no additional punitive measures would be taken.
At the June 18 meeting, Blomquist argued that the alleged civil rights’ infringements were “potentially a pattern of behavior in our schools demonstrating bullying and intimidation of both our teachers and our students by this administration, namely by Dr. Metzler.”
Blomquist and others presented a citizens’ petition asking for Morse’s reinstatement.
In addition, Blomquist noted that the group of citizens were concerned about a lack of communication from the board, noting that efforts had been taken to contact board members but the responses had been meager or non-existent.
The school district defense of the lawsuit would be paid for by taxpayers.
Neither the school board membership nor Metzler responded to the claims at the meeting.
On Monday, Sandown school board representative Donna Green sought an emergency meeting with her peers partially in response to an email Metzler sent to the press and three school board members indicating a potential countersuit. Green had concerns over spending district funds on that effort.
Metzler noted in that email on the subject that personally and professionally he and the district will be represented by the best attorneys, locally and nationally.
Contacted after the meeting, Metzler said the case had no merit and was the result of progressive discipline. “When false accusations are made, people take whatever measures are necessary. Poor performance and bad behavior will be addressed with progressive discipline. That is non-negotiable,” said the superintendent.
In response to a Tri-Town Times request to Metzler for whether a countersuit against Morse was planned, Metzler said he never mentiuoned a defendant for a countersuit referenced in his earlier email.
As part of the email chain that resulted from Green’s meeting request, board member Rob Collins wrote, “There isn’t a lawsuit and Dr. Metzler is well aware of the law. He would not use taxpayer money for a personal lawsuit. This is another wild goose chase by Mrs. Green, nothing more.”