Hatfield parent upset religious material attached to school newsletter

Published: 01/11/2022 20:03:26

Modified: 01/11/2022 20:03:07

HATFIELD — A member of the Hatfield community for four years, Jennifer Bogin says her family has always felt welcome in town until this fall, when promotional materials for religious education classes at the Catholic Church was attached to the school newsletter.

“I feel like this was an absolutely unintended assault on my family and the way I’m raising my child,” Bogin said at a recent Hatfield school board meeting.

Upon receiving the email from Our Lady of Grace Church about its religious training programs, Bogin said, communication on the school’s mailing list showed him that some of his fears about moving to Hatfield since Northampton were coming true, including being lesbian parents raising a Jewish child. and coming to a less diverse city and not being part of the larger religious community.

But Bogin told the committee she understands that, without specific rules guiding what material can be sent home, schools cannot discriminate against any specific nonprofit, although she would prefer to see better separation from the church. and the state.

“I just want to start a conversation. I just feel like it was really upsetting for us,” Bogin said. “No matter what I don’t want my son’s backpack saying you need to be saved in second grade. That’s how we felt about it. That’s how we read it. »

Because public comment is not an action item on the agenda, the school committee could not immediately address Bogin’s concerns.

But committee chair Christy Boudreau said how and what schools share in updates from sources outside the school will be something her policy subcommittee will consider at an upcoming meeting.

“The district has a consistent practice of relaying information from local nonprofit and municipal organizations to families,” Boudreau said.

The current policy that allows a wide range of nonprofit organizations to use the schools mailing list was also explained by Superintendent Michael Wood in his initial response to Bogin’s concerns last month.

“I was aware of and approved the distribution of the flyer,” Wood wrote to her. “Hatfield Public Schools does not discriminate in the dissemination of non-profit information, nor do we endorse the content of these flyers. My mistake was not to make this clearer to recipients.

It is the first time Bogin can recall a flier returning to Hatfield causing him such anguish, after his son started Hatfield as a second year three years ago. The previous three emails this fall were about parent-teacher association events and other school-sponsored activities.

Prior to the meeting, Bogin contacted State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, who told him that the United States Supreme Court’s May unanimous decision on Shurtleff v. Boston, where the justices ruled that a Christian flag could fly outside the city of Boston Hall, is what guides Hatfield officials. This decision effectively said that if the policy is that all institutions have equal access to a forum, religious institutions cannot be prevented from having that same equal access.

“While Hatfield’s policy is that all outside groups may post to the mailing list and have equal access to it, religious institutions may use the mailing list as long as they, and all other posters, abide by the rules and regulations established by the superintendent or school committee,” Sabadosa said.

Bogin said in an interview with the Gazette that she loves Hatfield and that her son thrives in the schools, but she would still like to see a policy developed on contacting parents, so that no child or family feels excluded in the same way.

“These are microaggressions that we need to be aware of, especially when directed at our children,” Bogin said. “I feel like it’s about being alienated from my community.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at [email protected]

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