A brief announcement on the Putnam County School District’s website stated, “Tonight’s special meeting at the C.L. Overturf Jr. Sixth Grade Center, called at last Tuesday’s PCSD School Board meeting at the request of a local pastor, has been canceled at the pastor’s request.”
It was Pastor Tim Hall of the Cross Road Community Church of East Palatka who reportedly requested the special meeting, Hall could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Putnam Superintendent of Schools Phyllis Criswell said Monday that Hall called her on Saturday and said the issue had grown beyond what he had intended, which was just getting some assurance the incident would never happen again. People were going on social media and pressing their own agendas, Criswell said he told her.
“He asked that the meeting be canceled,” she said. “Since the school board had called the meeting at his request, they were agreeable to canceling it at his request.”
Parents and church leaders who spoke at the March 4 meeting said they were scandalized by an anti-bullying video reportedly shown to students on or around Feb. 20 by an agriculture teacher at Palatka High School.
Hall was quoted March 4 as saying, “This video depicts a life of those who are ridiculed, teased, and bullied for being a heterosexual in a gay world.”
Others who spoke said the video was more about a homosexual “agenda” than about bullying, and was at odds with scriptural teachings. Some students who viewed it were disturbed, they said.
According to reports, the teacher, who was unnamed, told students who did not wish to view the video they could work on computers at the back of the classroom. Speakers last week said that did not shield the students from hearing the video.
At the March 4 meeting, parents filled the school board meeting room at the Campbell Administration Building and overflowed into the hallway. Hall said then an additional meeting would give everyone a chance to present their feelings on the issue. The meeting was set for the Pignato Theater at the Overturf Sixth Grade Center, the largest facility of its kind in Palatka, before it was canceled on Monday.
Criswell said the producer of the video in question met with her and PHS Principal MaryBeth Hedstrom on Monday at the high school. The person did not meet with students, she said.
Criswell said the producer was to hold a meeting on Monday evening at Putnam Lanes for anyone interested. The meeting time was possibly posted on social media, but the Daily News was not informed in advance.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the school board will be Tuesday, March 18 at 3:30 p.m. at the Campbell Administration Building.