Woke: A thick man in a yellow shirt, suspenders, and red cap with white writing on it shouts "Woke!" and points in the face of a man in a white shirt that reads "Love is Love." The man in the white shirt says, in three panels: OI You got me. I stand in awe of your unwokeness! There's no arguing with the unwoke agenda. In fact, in all the history of woke, you may be the most unwoke person ever." The man in the red cap feels happy for a moment and then realizes he was insulted and has a question mark over his head.
Credit: Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune, UT / CTNewsJunkie via Cagle Cartoons / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Susan Campbell

A former Guilford police officer – William Maisano – was arrested last week after he sent an email to Guilford’s high school principal saying there would be “hell to pay” if a Guilford teacher –  who is also president of the union and advisor to the school’s Gender and Sexualities Alliance – attended the school’s graduation with her hair dyed in Pride colors.

Maisano also mentioned “sexual preference,” a phrase that was dismissed years ago as inaccurate. He is charged with breach of peace in the second degree, and scheduled to appear Wednesday in Superior Court in New Haven.

Maisano, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for the local Board of Education in 2021, has children in the town school system, and when he ran, he told a local news outlet that he thought the biggest issue facing his town was a school curriculum that created divisions among neighbors.

“Long-time friends have turned on each other,” Maisano said at the time. “Hateful words are expressed against neighbors. The irony is that it comes from people who preach tolerance. It is not acceptable and I would stop it.”

Was his recent email an attempt to stop the hateful words, neighbor vs. neighbor? Because it didn’t work. The town mostly rallied around the teacher. A few of the grownups took to social media and threatened to dye their own hair multi-colored. Superintendent Paul Freeman released a soaring statement that called the female teacher whom Maisano referenced “an exceptional teacher, a varsity coach, the supervisor of two student clubs, president of the teachers’ association, a department chair, and the graduation coordinator. In addition to all the roles that she fills, and her positive relationships with students, she contributes to that school every day by simply being who she is.” 

In the same statement, Freeman mentioned Chasten Buttigieg, a gay man who is the husband of the U.S. secretary of the Department of Transportation, Pete. Earlier, Chasten Buttigieg said in an interview that knowing even one gay high school teacher would have made a significant difference for him. Instead, Buttigieg suffered alone, and later in his high school career moved to Germany as an exchange student to escape the bullying.

Last September, Maisano, who retired from the Guilford police force in 2015 after a training accident, signed on to a federal lawsuit with two other unsuccessful school board candidates/parents – Danielle Scarpellino and Tim Chamberlin – alleging that their children have been bullied because of their parents’ political beliefs and the parents’ distaste for hair dye.

I made that last part up, but the suit is every bit as confounding. The parents and their children are represented by legal gadfly Norm Pattis, and their beef appears to stretch back to 2020, when Guilford stopped using a Native American as their sports mascot, joining (among other schools) Manchester, RHAM in Hebron, and Farmington in separating themselves from those racist symbols. Guilford students voted to become the Grizzlies, instead. Following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of his local police – and mirroring reckonings repeated in schools around the state – Guilford also, according to the lawsuit:

  • Committed to teacher training around issues of equality and as such:
  • Bought copies of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, “How to Be an Antiracist,” for teachers and students to read, and;
  • Hired consultants to help move things along.

The bulk of the suit contains complaints on behalf of the Scarpellino family. Earlier, Scarpellino, one of Maisano’s co-plaintiffs, challenged five books within the district’s middle and high schools, including Toni Morrison’s classic “The Bluest Eye.” Scarpellino also launched a change.org petition to have Freeman, who was named  2020’s Superintendent of the Year by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, removed.

Kudos to the voters of Guilford who knew enough not to give these people seats on the school board. Teaching and running a school district is difficult enough without this brand of nonsense. We either prepare students for the world as it is, or we set them up for failure, but let us let Freeman have the last word, from his public statement:

“To say that Black Lives Matter is not to suggest that white lives don’t. For another person’s child to read a book that you don’t like does not threaten your child’s well-being. To help Black students feel that they belong does not have negative consequences for anyone. And to be LGBTQ+ while attending a school event does not diminish that event in any way.”

Amen, sir.

Author of "Frog Hollow: Stories From an American Neighborhood," "Tempest Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker," and "Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl." Find more at susancampbell.substack.com.

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