Last week, I was reading a community forum board from a former town I lived in and spotted a thread that was a little repulsive.
A community member was asking when a water park would open and was summarily taunted and teased for his English and grammar while doing so. It was some ugly bullying behind the keyboard.
Of course, when I came to his defense and asked for people to show some humanity, I was ridiculed, too. Should’ve seen that coming…
This past week, our community has been witness to similar ugliness on social media and electronic communication.
Someone named “Doug Kelly” sent an absolutely horrendous e-mail to our Lee’s Summit Superintendent, Dr. Dennis Carpenter, through a district communications account. We know this because Jackson County Sheriff Daryl Forte somehow got a hold of said e-mail and shared it to his professional (term used lightly) Twitter account along with prayers and thoughts for. Dr. Carpenter and his family.
A quick glance at the e-mail shows that this individual replied to an R-7 eNews Update entitled “Sharing information from the Board of Education” and another titled “Comments from Board of Education President Julie Doane.” These were on June 4 and May 22, respectively. This “Doug Kelly” replied to a “no reply” e-mail account for the school district, which one would deduce is unmonitored or would lead to a bounce back e-mail.
Instead, the ignorant, keyboard warrior’s e-mail ended up at the desk of Forte, who cannot help himself but take the opportunity to politicize the words.
The move fits right in line with Forte’s recent spate of weirdness on Twitter, where he has attacked award-winning, Kansas City journalists and continues to defend policies at the Jackson County jail that demean women under the guise of “security measures.”
But with all this going on, Forte has taken time to weigh in on an LSR-7 issue and, somehow, view an e-mail not meant for him. It begs the question: why would he be involved?
Beyond the obvious to those that monitor county politics closely, we have to now consider that Forte either filed a Sunshine Law request for e-mails to a “no reply” account and/or rumors that Dr. Carpenter and his family needed protection from real and present threats to them are true and that the JCSO provided that protection.
When I asked the district why Forte had the e-mail, I was told to ask Forte. So I did. His response relative to the question was:
“As you most likely are aware, most emails to public institutions are available through open records. My County email account was not used, and I was not on duty when I exercised my constitutional rights...”
He may not have made these open records requests from his county account, but Sheriff Forte sure had no problem sharing the fruits of his requests on his County Twitter account, @sheriffforte.
Forte went on to confirm that security detail has been provided at the home of Dr. Carpenter.
If you read, like, 28 different disturbing things in the above paragraphs, you’re not alone.
Social media this week has proven to be an animal, with some arguing that the abhorrent message (Doug Kelly) is lost in who provided it (the district) and because of who shared it (Forte).
Let’s put that to rest: Doug Kelly’s comments can be sickening; Forte’s use of the e-mail is self-serving and disingenuous and the district’s sharing of the e-mail is highly questionable. All of these —at the same time — are true. These aren’t mutually exclusive issues.
That our superintendent and his family needs protection at their home should be a wake up call to all of us. This is not Lee’s Summit. And the only way we get to the root of this issue is to talk about it, call out the bad behavior and individuals and come together as a community.
The thought of our superintendent, his wife or — my God — his children having to wake up to Sheriff’s deputies outside of his home or following them around for protection should shock and sadden all of us.
The district (via Carpenter himself) refused to answer questions regarding when and how long protection was needed at his home or if that issue was ongoing.
We find ourselves with the message (and this week, multiple messages) out of our hands. It’s just out there floating aimlessly through the community and open to interpretation — and division.
We should have had enough of this by now.
And certainly when you factor in threatening behavior, law enforcement and the politicization of our district issues, we collectively must say — or rather shout — “enough!”
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.