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School trustee's comment insulting

September 26, 2012 | 09:18 AM

When interviewing Hoosier basketball hero Damon Bailey for this newspaper 15 years ago, I asked him if he ever grew tired of being yelled at by then-IU basketball coach Bobby Knight. Bailey said that, with his coach, you had to listen to what was being said and not how Knight said it.

In the newspaper business, you are bound to rile people up in one way or another. Often their complaints are legitimate, but sometimes the way they choose to express their frustration doesn't differ from that of Knight's, including the vulgarities. Because of this, I made the decision long ago to take Bailey's philosophy and focus on the words being said and let the forcefulness in which it is said fall by the wayside.

Question of the Week
Do you think elected officials treat their constituents with respect?
Sometimes, however, it can't be done.

If, at this month's regular meeting of the South Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees, on Sept. 4, board member Ray (Radar) Lillpop had stopped speaking immediately after describing what he did on the board to help South Central students during his previous tenure almost 30 years ago, I'm not sure many people would have given what he said much afterthought. Audience members would have listened to his view, agreed or disagreed, and moved on.

But, when you add, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it" to his comment — as he did — it turns a zealous statement from what he believes to be fact, to being an in-your-face statement meant to annoy, irritate or show up others. There's just no other way to take his "pipe" comment than in a negative, disrespectful tone.

He may as well have flipped the bird to the audience and told people to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. Really, there's not much difference.

While acting in an official role, speaking to people who may — or may not have — put you in the position you're in, you don't do that. Ever. Lillpop was elected to the board by people who trusted him to do what's best for all children in the South Harrison Community School Corp., not just South Central. Regardless if he was upset about something, he certainly wasn't elected as a trustee to tell off people.

What Lillpop should have done, if he wanted to make his point, was taken a page from fellow trustee Jeff Brown, who, not 30 seconds before Lillpop's comment, also made an impassioned statement about how he stands up for South Central. Brown said what he had to say, made his point and was done.

School board meetings are held to provide the public an insight into the inner workings of a school corporation. They shouldn't be places where the audience is verbally assaulted with insulting phrases.

Lillpop's comment demonstrated a lack of respect for the very people he's supposed to be working for and — at the very least — he owes an apology to those who were in attendance Sept. 4.

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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email