POLAND — Nurses and administrators have been “verbally berated, sworn at, or threatened” by family members upset when they learn students exposed to COVID-19 have to be quarantined, leaders of Regional School Unit 16 said Friday.

RSU 16 Superintendent Kenneth Healey Submitted photo

In a letter to staff, parents, students and the community in the three-town district, Superintendent Ken Healey and his second-in-command, Amy Hediger, said they “understand that people are tired or frustrated” after 19 months of enduring “a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.”

But, they said, that’s no reason for the “many public and social media displays of displeasure when families receive phone calls regarding quarantine or when staff enforce masking and social distancing requirements or during participation at our school board meetings.”

“We ask that anyone who has participated in one of these unkind conversations or social media posts, please take a step back and remember, that each and every one of these employees and board members are people with a positive intent,” Healey and Hediger said. “They care about your children.”

“We implore all members of the Regional School Unit 16 educational family, please make this level of incivility stop,” the pair pleaded.

At the Oct. 4 school board meeting, members were accused of helping sex traffickers by requiring masks in schools as they came under fire for following the recommendations of public health experts.

In their letter Friday, the two administrators said their staff has been stretched thin trying to deal with COVID-19 while simultaneously doing all the things they normally have to do to teach children from Poland, Mechanic Falls and Minot.

Jennifer Bessette of Minot compared requiring masks to human trafficking during a recent RSU 16 school board meeting. Video screenshot

“During stressful times,” the two administrators, said, “the emotions of worry, fear, anger and frustration are normal reactions. However, as a community we must remain unified and civil.”

They called their plea “an urgent call for kindness and civility” because “throughout the last few weeks,” there have been a number of occasions when unhappy people have taken out their frustrations on staff members who are only doing their jobs.

“When determining whether a student is a close contact or not” or somebody who comes down with COVID-19,” they said, all school districts are expected to follow the guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is a standard protocol, they said, that school administrators and nurses need to follow.

“When our school administrators and nurses call families to inform them that a student needs to be quarantined, they are doing their job,” Healey and Hediger said.

But “on several occasions it has been reported that they have been verbally berated, sworn at or threatened for simply doing their job,” the pair said.

“Our school nurses are simply the messengers, and no matter your emotions, you should recognize that the messenger should be treated with the respect they deserve. Our nurses have been the guardian angels of our students during this pandemic and deserve your kindness, understanding and patience,” the two said.

“Additionally, our school administrators and school staff have been receiving more than their fair share of frustration and anger,” Healey and Hediger said. “Like the nurses, they are simply doing their jobs.”

“We are all doing our best to navigate these uncertain times. We need to serve as the models for our children on respectful civic engagement and discourse, even though we disagree with a plan, decision or requirement. The best way out of this pandemic is to stand together,” they said.

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