February 20, 2020 - Volume 40 Issue 7



By Bondy Shay Gibson, Ed.D. Superintendent, Jefferson County Schools

Dear Eastern Panhandle Families,

On the 19th of May in 2015, I was blessed to be chosen as the superintendent of Jefferson County Schools. In that moment, I placed my hand upon a Bible and swore an oath to “… faithfully discharge the duties of superintendent of Jefferson County Schools to the best of my skill and judgment, so help me God.” The incident at the Shepherdstown Middle School boys basketball game against Musselman Middle School on Feb. 6, 2020, has shaken my belief that I am upholding that oath.

For those of you not aware, in the course of the game, a group of parents who were angry about a call made by the referee became so abusive, threatening and aggressive that they were escorted out of the gym. Unfortunately, additional “fans” took up the mantel of profanity, degrading comments, screaming and threatening behavior. A very brave and professional, Assistant Principal Mindy Toler, who was the administrator on duty, made multiple attempts to quiet the crowd and call upon people to act like responsible adults. Shamefully, those pleas fell on deaf ears.

In the end, she was forced to call the police to assist in removing all of the fans from the gym for student safety. The police were sufficiently concerned that they chose to stay on the scene until the game ended and all in attendance left. The game was finished with only coaches, referees and students present. The severity of the incident led the WVSSAC to file a “special report” denoting the outcome.

To such an appalling event, I believe the only reasonable, sane answer is ENOUGH. As superintendent, I take full responsibility for events on our campuses. To those individuals who were witnesses to this behavior, my deepest apologies. This kind of belligerent and abusive behavior does not represent Jefferson County Schools and has no place on our campuses or around our children. We have a duty to protect children from physical and emotional abuse, no matter the source, and we take that responsibility with the utmost seriousness.

This year, we expended $1.98 million on counselors, social workers, therapists, teacher training, materials, etc., to address the growing social-emotional and behavioral problems our children are experiencing. Tolerating their exposure to such toxic behavior while under our care and supervision runs counter to our mission and all we are doing to accomplish it.

Many individuals reading this will not recognize themselves as a source of the problem. However, if you are a parent who defines screaming profanity at referees as “passion” or booing/shaming 11-year-old children who happen to be wearing a different colored jersey as “supporting your team” or questioning the intelligence and judgment of the coaches who serve your children for pennies on the hour as “your right,” then you are certainly part of the problem.

For those of you who, like me, came here to escape that toxic culture and raise your children in a community with civility and respect as family values, I ask that you join us in keeping Jefferson County the place you fell in love with, whether from birth or by choice.

To that end, we call upon our athletic, administrative, and law enforcement communities to join us. Next week, we will begin to develop a clear, consistent set of guidelines for behavior across all of our campuses as well as a comprehensive plan for communication and enforcement of those guidelines. Our children and our staff and our community have a right to a safe and supportive environment at every Jefferson County Schools’ event. Together, I believe that we can hold ourselves to the standard our children deserve.

Editor’s Note: This Opinion piece was published in the Feb. 9 issue of The Journal (Martinsburg). Used by permission. Photograph courtesy of Gibson. Also reference  http://wvmetronews.com/2020/02/19/ssac-continues-t for a related story.