Taryn Bowman says that incumbent District 4 Board of Education Member Nancy Meister should’ve done more to keep parents in the loop about the investigation of a sexual assault at North Atlanta High.
Bowman raised the issue of the assault during a forum held at Sarah Smith Elementary on Wednesday. Bowman is running against Meister for the District 4 seat.
Reporter Newspapers did not attend the forum, but local blogger Robert Stockwell was there and reported Bowman’s comments on his Financial Deconstruction blog. Bowman has confirmed them to Reporter Newspapers.
Meister did not return a message seeking comment. Stockwell reports that Bowman made her comments at the end of the forum when she had the last word and Meister had no opportunity to respond.
Bowman began her remarks with, “Yes, my opponent has experience. She has more experience in …” and listed several alleged failures of Meister’s leadership. The part of that statement that got Reporter Newspapers’ attention was Bowman’s claim that one of Meister’s alleged failures was, “Overseeing school shootings, gas leaks, and a sexual assault of a special ed student at North Atlanta.”
Bowman apparently was referring to a story Reporter Newspapers broke in May. According to the story, a female autistic student reported that she was raped by a male at North Atlanta High. Atlanta Police have reported no arrests in that case.
Meister and many other APS officials first learned about the report when contacted by Reporter Newspapers.
Bowman on Thursday elaborated on her statement and said Meister did not do enough after she learned about the reported rape. Reporter Newspapers asked Bowman to explain what, if anything, a school board member could do in response to a report of a rape at a public school.
“Ms. Meister is responsible for holding the superintendent accountable,” Bowman said. “To date, we (parents, community members) have not been informed about the outcome of the sexual assault incident. That’s unacceptable. Ms. Meister is aware of the incident and she has not held the superintendent accountable regarding providing an update to parents about the reported assault. If I represented District 4, we would have an update by now. The reported assault happened last school year. A reported sexual assault is very serious and the students, teachers, parents and community members deserve to know what happened and to be reassured that their school is safe.”
And what about a student bringing a gun to school? What can a member of the Board of Education do to stop something like that? What would Bowman do if she were on the Board of Education?
“We need a comprehensive and effective safety and security plan. Ms. Meister can insist that her employee, the superintendent, develops and implements a safety plan that ensures that all students are safe,” Bowman said. “We must monitor incidents and measure the effectiveness of the plan. What is monitored is done; what is measured is done well. While it is everyone’s responsibility to help foster a safe environment for children, it is certainly an expectation that our board member holds the superintendent accountable and ensures that all students are safe. We need someone who will not stand on the sideline while students are assaulted. I will hold the superintendent accountable for providing a safe school environment for all students.”
Though Meister did not respond to a message seeking a reaction to Bowman’s comments, Stockwell said Meister looked ready to rebut Bowman at the forum. Stockwell wrote that Meister couldn’t respond because according to the forum’s rules “Bowman was the last to speak and the session ended.”