Open Letter to QAE Community Member “John Smith”

[Note: “John Smith,” is a pseudonym used by a person who first appeared on the now defunct “Seattle Wants David Elliott Back” Facebook page. John Smith shared a letter from another anonymous QAE community member, who in turn represented many QAE families (you still with me?) who were displeased with David Elliott. John Smith and the families for whom he claimed to speak cited fear as the primary reason for their lack of both prior communication and present identity disclosure.]

Dear John,

I’m writing today with the goal of mending this community. I must be honest and say that my heart is broken. I saw a genuine striving for good in David Elliott, and I am grieving the loss of that effortful goodness for our children and the state of education in general. My strategy now is to focus on striving for goodness within our community, to look closely at what we know and what we don’t know, to try to make it whole again. As NPR’s Sarah Koenig would say, “all facts are friendly.”

Heart pin

I have a lot of questions before my healing can begin. Though I have not seen your pseudonym pop up in the forums lately, I trust that you are still heavily involved in the discussion, based on your previously communicated level of information clearance and concern.

  • When you referenced the fear involved in having a dissenting voice, I felt empathy for you. When my friend pointed out and surmised that you had been removed from the “Seattle Wants David Elliott Back” page for expressing that voice, I sent you a friend request. If community support is what you’re after, why didn’t you accept?
  • It is clear we disagree on the subject of whether or not David Elliott is fundamentally good. When there are two other well-loved public elementary schools within a one mile radius, can you shed any light on why your representees would willingly send their children to an option school with corrupt and adversarial leadership? I respect their right to a different opinion, and am genuinely curious as to why they would not use their parental powers of discretion to seek a better education for their children.
  • Regarding the level of fear you communicated, I can’t help but conjure images of people trapped inside a cult. If your representees feel as though they are surrounded by unsympathetic people who drank the Kool-Aid, why break the silence now? Which part of SPS’ dismissal of David Elliott- based on missing paperwork- felt like the kind of support they had been waiting for? Does your group have any concerns about the future educative implications of aligning themselves behind an establishment that has acted in such bad faith toward a community majority?

As someone who is currently obtaining a masters in teaching, I am deeply affected by SPS’ blatant and unilateral flex of power in opposition to hundreds of discerning and well-informed parents. It has made me, along with some extremely talented future educators in my cohort, actually reconsider our career paths. It is one thing to be a cog in a wheel, it is quite another to be a cog in a broken wheel.

  • Now that justice has been corruptly served in accordance with your representees’ personal beliefs regarding David Elliott, will they continue to take part in a school community which, to them, must seem almost entirely comprised of ignorant followers? I can’t imagine willingly partaking in that level of daily frustration, nor subjecting my children to it.

I met with David face-to-face regarding the cyber-bullying incident, which I assume is the primary impetus behind your involvement. What made the cyber-bullying incident so difficult to address was the lack of accountability due to hidden identity. Though we may ultimately disagree about David’s handling of that situation, let us not forget that the perpetrator of this sad and desperate move was not David, but a child within our community.

  • If we are a community joined in the holistic effort of education with a technology focus, how are online pseudonyms and speaking for large swaths of unnamed others addressing the fundamental issue of accountability which first began these divisions? How are you modeling the behavior you want to see in our children, John?
  • If you (and those you represent) continue to hide your identities, then it is clear you do not trust your community. How is a community lacking in trust supposed to heal?

The many voices which comprise a community are rooted in individual identities. To sever an identity from its voice is to undermine and call into question the empathic and reasoning capabilities of all other vocally integrated members. I want to come together to heal, but healing will not take place until we address this issue of identity and accountability.

I look forward to hearing from you, John.



6 thoughts on “Open Letter to QAE Community Member “John Smith”

  1. Nobody is trying to say that David directly made a cyber threat. But nobody said that Joe Paterno abused those young men at Penn State. But Coach Paterno was aware of the sexual deviancy and misconduct and watched it happen. And did nothing to stop it. Nor did he ever report. He was just as guilty, if not more so, than Mr. Sandusky. He had the opportunity to step in and protect those youths and save them from long-term, possible permanent damage. But he protected his precious football program over the safety of those kids.

    What if David had found out that a teacher was touching kids and he covered it up? What if David was aware that a teacher was touching your kids, your friends kids, and he covered it up? Would you still be standing up for him, talking about his kindness? And if not, then why is this any different? He is responsible for the physical and emotional safety of his students, does he only lose your support if his transgression was of a sexual nature?

    Regardless, if John Smith was indeed a source from inside of the school, as claimed, then I find it difficult to believe that anybody would fault him/her for not revealing their identity. Deep Throat did not reveal his own identity until after he was dead, and with good reason. I see no reason to focus on the fact that somebody provided information anonymously and hope you see that the sort of post does nothing to further the healing but instead most likely re-victimizes the families who were hurt.

    • Hi Robert,
      Have we met? Are you a QAE parent? Some context would be helpful for our community discussion. Thanks.
      At any rate, thanks for engaging and joining in the discussion.
      While I can see you are attempting to make a point regarding cover-ups, I take issue with your analogy of choice. An adult who covers for an adult pedophiliac repeatedly preying on children is quite different from an adult who covers for a child who once cyber-bullied another child.
      And since we are on the subject of covering up, I don’t believe that is what ultimately happened. I received at least two school-wide emails from David regarding internet safety. Did you receive them? And when I met with David about it, I did express my regret and concern that the community did not hear about the cyber-bullying incident from him directly. On that point, we differed, as well-intentioned people often do. However, before that meeting even took place, the blog interface had been changed to require moderation for every comment. Aside from publicly outing the confused child perpetrator as you seem to be suggesting in your analogy, how did the moderation fail to protect our kids going forward?
      There has been rampant identity evasion on the part of who knows how many adults. When will it stop? How are we even to begin the healing/rebuilding process in such darkness? Why are you now speaking for families who feel victimized? How have I victimized anyone by sharing my opinion, by going in to speak to David Elliott on behalf of the child who was cyber-bullied? How can I even address those who have been, according to you, re-victimized by this post if I don’t even know who they, or you, are?

      • I am a close relative of a QAE parent.

        Obviously my analogy was just that and I wasn’t trying to suggest that David was covering up a pedophile (although he did ignore sexual misconduct – one of this students was inappropriately touched by another student and it was never addressed). My point here is that a cover-up is a cover–up. You keep referring to one instance of bullying but from what I’ve read, there’s been ongoing systemic bullying which included (but is not limited to) a child being thrown into a wall or pillar until they bled, a child being slapped and spit on, and a child having their life threatened in a horrid manner. And a child being touched by a classmate. And more. Yet instead of protecting these kids, he tried to make it all go away by ignoring the victims and sweeping the issues under the rug. Nobody is saying he shouldn’t have had sympathy and empathy for the bullies but where is the help, sympathy, empathy and healing for the victims?!

        I also remember hearing that, yes, after the ‘cyber incident’ (calling a threat to “slash your throat while you sleep” is much more than an ‘incident’ but I digress) that the posts were moderated. But that only protects comments from being posted. How does showing the picture of a 5-year old, along with her name, school, neighborhood, pet names and favorite activities come across as protective? That’s not protecting kids, that’s offering every bit of info about young children to anyone in the world. It goes against every cybersafety101 rule, even for adults. Offering that info to the public about kids is unspeakable and speaks to the highest level of negligence.

        When will the “rampant identity evasion” stop? From what I’ve read, victim’s families are speaking up and being called liars, slanderers. They are being ostracized and treated like crap. Very few people are offering any consoling words to the families who have children who have been physically or emotionally brutalized, and even though they have given offers of proof of the occurrences, people are still taking David at his word when he downplays the events. It’s beyond obvious to me that the anonymity is the only way for some to feel safe right now. My questions in turn: when will people stop focusing on one small point, like anonymity, and actually offer ideas for healing? When will we envelope the families who have been hurt so badly that they needed to remove their kids from the school? What are we doing to make them feel comforted and safe, help with their healing? When are we going to stop pointing fingers at the people who had the audacity to speak out and begin pointing forward instead?

        You refused to answer the question and don’t like the pedo analogy so let me ask this. Suppose someone violently threatened your child’s life. You reported it to teachers and David. But instead of comforting you and your family and making sure your child was safe, he only stood with the bully and their family (even though the bully wasn’t even at the school) and excoriated your family publicly. How would you feel?

        • Hi Robert,

          Analogies carry valuable information as to your intent. Your choice to equate David Elliott to Joe Paterno covering for Jerry Sandusky speaks volumes. It is clear you want to bury DE, and will stop at nothing to accomplish your goal. You would like to throw this person away, and forever tarnish his reputation, based on your personal disagreement with his handling of the cyber threat.

          QAE’s unspoken mission is to love and welcome every child who walks through its doors. Though we may disagree on how best to implement that belief, I strongly believe that the entire staff’s intentions were and are honorable.

          It seems as though your relative believes their personal vendetta against David trumps any and all different opinions held by any QAE parent. It seems like your relative has somehow convinced you that it’s fine to compare our children’s former principal to a pedophile sympathizer. How is this extremist tactic any different from the bullying you are so eager to stop?

          While we are on the subject of threats and bullying, here is an article entitled “Rude v. Mean v. Bullying: Defining the Difference” that might be helpful to you and your relative: In it, bullying is defined as “intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.”

          I have offered support privately and gone to bat publicly for any family that has shared an experience with me. I have spent hours carefully crafting letters to David, to teachers, to parents. As a victim of bullying in middle school, I have a big heart for anyone who is bullied. I can’t think of one person in this community who doesn’t.

          The problem, Robert, is that there is some sort of reverse bullying and fear mongering going on. Anyone who doesn’t agree to socially lynch David has been rebranded as a bully sympathizer. The very same destructive, intimidation tactics that parents hate seeing in the schools are being used all over the internet to perpetuate fear. I do not support bullying in any form, Robert.

          On a run earlier this morning, I actually had a complete stranger come up and thank me for this open letter. She expressed her fear, and the dark cloud that she felt had descended on the neighborhood as a result of these destructive, subversive tactics.

          I hope you and your relative can take a step back and assess whether your words and actions are having the desired effect, and what effect it was that you desired in the first place. My sole purpose was and always will be to stand up to bullying.

          To answer your question, if someone violently threatened my child’s life on a school blog, I would be shocked and concerned. I would feel a somewhat elevated version of how I felt when someone compared my children’s beloved principal to a pedophile sympathizer.

          My first step would be to insist that the comments be removed. I would not show those comments to my child, thus perpetuating the victimization of my child. I would get to the bottom of who wrote the comments. Once I found out that that “someone” was a troubled child, I would feel empathy and sadness. I would wish that child’s family the best on what appears to be a long road ahead for them. Once assured that there was no legitimate threat to my child’s life, I would then circle back to the school and respectfully insist that comments go through some sort of filtration system (like moderation). I would resort to a sit-in in David’s office if necessary (which it wasn’t).

          Based on how many pictures of my kids that I put on social media, I would not fault the school for a momentary slip up in password protection. It happens. There is as-yet no overarching SPS policy or technical support regarding school blogs and websites. Given this uncharted territory, I would exercise understanding and rationality for a heavily underpaid and overworked staff doing their best to juggle many things at once.

          This Friday my son experienced ostracism which ended in heavy, defeated tears at the QAE playground soccer game, which has been ongoing since the start of the year. These families to which you refer do not hold a monopoly on fear, victimization, and painful school experiences. They are uncomfortable, and we all must handle them as best we can, without malice and with compassion for all parties involved.

          “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
          -MLK Jr.

          I wish you and your relative the best, Robert.

  2. Robert-

    It is futile to argue with people like Connor. She has been consistently evasive and non-responsive. If she wants DE rehabilitated she can ask that he waive his right to secrecy and reveal all correspondence concerning his termination. The total picture, perhaps, would result in her and her faction relinquishing their fight to rehabilitate a person rightly dismissed (and, if history is a guide, with a couple hundred thousand dollars to go away). His peremptory termination is causing the district not only to provide a generous severance package, but to pay two principals’ salaries for QAE.

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