Local school officials are pushing back against misinformation being disseminated on social media concerning a substitute teacher.
According to a letter sent last Friday to parents in the district, Hartland Consolidated Schools Superintendent Chuck Hughes said that a social media post had erroneously accused the district of allowing pedophiles to work with children at Round Elementary School.
The post in question came from Brooke Chapel, identified as a member of the Livingston County chapter of Moms for Liberty, a right-wing group that has been active in opposing COVID health measures in area schools and pushing unfounded conspiracy theories about educational curriculum as it pertains to science and history.
In the TikTok video, which is labeled “PSA – Pedophile Alert!”, Chapel alleges, without proof, that a substitute teacher used a desk to lay students down and give them an ultrasound of their heart in which they were asked to roll up their shirts. Chapel then says that when the school asked the man to leave, he refused and then “ended up taking a nap in the student’s classroom the rest of the day.”
According to Hughes, the incident in question occurred on Wednesday, May 18, when the district had a substitute teacher “who shared that he was a retired surgeon and was willing to allow the children to hear and see their heartbeat.” The teacher, with the approval of the school’s principal, used a stethoscope and a portable ultrasound device to allow the students to hear their heartbeats and see a heartbeat with a portable ultrasound device. According to Hughes, the principal directed that only male students could volunteer, as the substitute was male.
“This activity occurred with a few boys volunteering to have their classmates view the ultrasound while lying on the floor with all the students circled around, not the teachers desk as alleged,” stated Hughes. “Since this was the first time the substitute was in the building, vetted and approved through our third-party substitute provider, the principal placed the regular building substitute with him for much of the day.”
Hughes said Chapel’s accusation that the teacher refused to leave and took a nap was false, noting that the “regular building substitute and principal discussed sending the substitute home as there was no need to have two adults in the classroom” but that at “no time did the principal try to send the substitute home with the substitute refusing as alleged in the social media post.” Hughes also said the second adult in the room confirmed that the substitute did not nap in the room.
When asked about the false accusations made by Chapel, Hughes told GIGO News that it was “unfortunate that people would find it okay to use social media to disseminate information that is not factual and usually taken out of context. I have consistently offered my time to sit with those having concerns to answer any and all questions. It would be better for everyone if individuals or groups contacted me before taking to social media.”
In the letter to parents, Hughes also confirmed that the school’s principal sent parents of students in the classroom communication regarding the issue.
“As I write this letter,” stated Hughes, “the principal is sharing positive feedback from parents via email and phone conversations. I share some of parent’s feedback below:
“Thanks for all you do, and put up with. Sending this so you get some positive feedback, hopefully this is not the only positive feedback you get regarding this. I wanted you to know that was impressed with this, and it made his day.… and get kids exposed to real life experiences that are appropriate for kindergarten.”
“I only heard wonderful things from my daughter. I think that was an amazing opportunity that they would not have been able to experience otherwise. Please send our thank you to the generous and kind guest teacher.”
“Well, I had an amazing conversation with when he came home! He was very nonchalant about seeing a heart and I had zero concerns about the experience. I am sorry the educational opportunity was tainted by social media. Thank you for all you do.”
“My daughter has talked a lot about how a body works and was excited to tell me about seeing a heart beating She had a great experience from this.”
Hughes added that the Assistant Superintendent of Personnel and Student Services, Scott VanEpps, would investigate the incident fully, but wanted to make it clear that this type of event could not occur without permission from parents. He also reiterated that the substitute did nothing inappropriate “as he asked and received permission from the principal to share this experience.”
Hughes concluded the letter by saying that as an educator and father, he could “respect the concerns a parent may have regarding a stranger acting in this manner,” but “that the truth of things often lies in better understanding the details and context of any situation, and not from what someone shares or posts on social media.”