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Manchester School Board Member Accused of Cyberbullying

Democrats in Manchester say that a Republican member of the Board of Education has been cyberbullying one of their members.

This article first appeared on Manchester Patch. Could you see cyberbullying occurring between members of any boards in Southington? How should it be handled?

Democratic members of the school board are accusing a Republican colleague of bullying one of their own.

Monday night, the members asked , a Republican, to resign because of messages Kidd sent on Facebook to Kelly Luxenberg, a Democrat; the members and Luxenberg said the posts are threatening and harassing. Kidd left the meeting afterwards without responding to an ultimatum to step aside. 

After consulting her personal attorney and the school board counsel, Luxenberg has shared the messages with the Manchester Police Department.

"The environment that we strive to create in our schools is conducive to learning and we endeavor to have that same environment on our board for conducting the public’s business," Democratic members of the Manchester Board of Education wrote in a statement that they provided to Patch after Monday's meeting. "We have the expectation to communicate with each other and the community we serve in a respectful and professional manner." 

Kidd, who is serving her first term on the school board, declined to comment when reached late Monday, referring questions to Manchester Republican Town Committee Chairman Matt Galligan instead. 

Galligan described Kidd as "passionate about education and the future of the children of Manchester" and that the Democratic members of the board, particularly Kelly Luxenberg, had "misconstrued intense political debate." 

"She chose to take an instance of obvious political disagreement and turn it into a police matter when there was never any threat of physical harm," Galligan said. 

Luxenberg, who is married to State Rep. Geoff Luxenberg, a Democratic who represents Manchester, said she and Kidd occasionally exchanged emails, text messages and Facebook messages during Kidd's first several months on the Board of Education, but that she was "unnerved" by the sudden hostile tone Kidd began to take in her Facebook messages to her about a week ago. 

One series of messages from Kidd, which Kelly Luxenberg made available to Patch, begin at 2:38 a.m. with a post from Kidd stating, "Don't you ever patronize me by telling me I did a great job. GOT IT." 

Kidd continues that she will "bulldoze you. Promise." and that Kelly Luxenberg is "looking outr [sic] for your husband and our backed by dem news papers." 

The messages from Kidd, sent privately to Kelly Luxenberg's Facebook account, continue for several minutes. They include Kidd urging Luxenberg to "bring iton [sic]," telling her to "read this to the public" and that Kidd has "no trust any more" in the town's political process. 

One message, time stamped at 2:52 a.m., reads: "I will look you in the face. I HATE OBAMA. I also hate Bush. Don't you ever shut me off again with you political [expletive deleted] again. Next time it will not be pretty. Here here I am no shinking violet." 

Kelly Luxenberg said she awoke to find the messages waiting for her on her Facebook account the next morning. 

"I would say I was unnerved by it," Kelly Luxenberg said. "The board prides itself on being collegial." 

Kelly Luxenberg said she discussed the matter with other members of the Board of Education, who also expressed that they had observed or experienced "inappropriate verbal, email and text message communications" from Kidd. 

"We spend a lot of time as a board talking about and trying to set policies that guard against bullying," said Neal Leon, a Democratic member of the school board. "It's no good. We can't have it. But it has to apply to us on the board as well." 

Kelly Luxenberg said she consulted with several attorneys after receiving Kidd's messages, including the Board of Education's counsel, who advised her to contact the police. Kelly Luxenberg said she spoke with an officer at the Manchester Police Department about the messages, who documented the incident and told her that Kidd would be contacted and warned to have no further contact with Luxenberg outside of Board of Education related events. 

Kelly Luxenberg said that Monday's meeting was the first time that she and Kidd were in the same room together since she received the messages. 

Michael Pohl, the Manchester Democratic Town Committee Chairman, said that Kidd's remarks to Luxenberg "crossed the line" and that Kelly Luxenberg's response was not politically motivated but merely steps to protect herself against messages that were clearly "threatening and harassing." 

"That is not appropriate political debate, let alone how you would want your kids to communicate with one another," Pohl said of Kidd 

When asked, Galligan said he found nothing inappropriate with Kidd's comments or the means in which she expressed them to Kelly Luxenberg. 

"Politics makes it necessary to have a thick skin," Galligan said. "The debate is always going to be full-throated, it's always going to be contentious." 

Democrats gave Kidd an opportunity to resign from her seat on the school board Monday night, but she left the meeting afterwards without responding to their request. Manchester's Town Charter does not contain any criteria for removing elected officials for improper conduct such as inappropriate behavior or criminal offense so although Democrats control a 6-3 majority on the school board they said there was nothing they could do to remove Kidd unless she chose to step aside. 

Galligan said that Kidd "will not be resigning from the Board of Education" and that Democrats have gone out of their way since last November's election campaign to "besmirch" her. 

Kelly Luxenberg said that Galligan and Kidd are hoping to turn the matter into a political football when it is clearly a case of cyberbullying. 

"It was definitely unnerving and definitely an experience that I have never fell victim to before in terms of bullying," Luxenberg said. "In this day and age you can never be too sure. There's nothing political about this."

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