NORTH SMITHFIELD – A North Smithfield town councilor is calling for the town’s School Committee to withhold its membership dues from the Rhode Island Association of School Committees over comments the group’s executive director made about a controversial federal response to local school board incidents.

Stephen Corriveau, a member of the North Smithfield Town Council, submitted the resolution during a council meeting on Monday, Nov. 1. The resolution calls for members of the North Smithfield School Committee to withhold the group’s membership dues from the Rhode Island Association of School Committees.

“Ultimately, I’m looking for an action this evening on this in the form of a vote on what I consider to be an extremely important matter that would inevitably affect our families as well as the taxpayers,” he said.

The resolution was in response to the recent controversy over a proposed federal inquiry into “an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” directed at local school boards. In September, the National School Board Association sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting federal assistance to address a spike in incidents that they likened to a “form of domestic terrorism.” The organization later apologized for the language of the letter but said the safety of school board members, educators and students remains a top priority.

In a move criticized by Republican legislators, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland asked the FBI to step in and meet with local law enforcement leaders to address the issue.

Several state school board organizations withdrew their membership from the National School Board Association over the letter, but the R.I. Association of School Committees did not. RIASC Executive Director Timothy Duffy sent an email to members on Oct. 5 saying the RIASC “will contact our U.S. Attorney as well as the FBI and coordinate with them on what steps, if any, we need to take.”

“In the interim, please apprise me of any issues you have had during your committee meetings on topics such as mask mandates, issues with equity education, rights for LGBTQ and BIPOC students,” he wrote.

Topics such as masks mandates and teachings about race have made School Committee meetings into battlegrounds as parents air their often heated views on the subjects. In North Smithfield, several parents at the Aug. 17 School Committee meeting tried to shout over and ridicule speakers and committee members who did not share their views opposing mask mandates. One parent was later criticized for comparing the mandates to the Holocaust.

Corriveau said he submitted the resolution after hearing from parents who said they didn’t feel like they’d be heard at School Committee meetings after the recent events. “I do not condone violence or acts of violence, but civil discussion can happen, and it does get heated at times. As I’ve heard sitting on the council before from several people, if you can’t take the heat, then you shouldn’t take the position to lead,” he said.

Corriveau, elected to the Town Council last year, has been vocal about the issue of mask-wearing in schools, speaking against a mask mandate at the Aug. 17 meeting.

Other town councilors on Monday were less certain on the issue, with one expressing outright opposition to the idea of putting it before the council. Councilor Paul Vadenais said the resolution didn’t belong at a Town Council meeting, since the council has no control over School Committee matters except to approve their final budget.

“We cannot tell them how to spend one penny of that money. If you feel this is an issue that should be addressed at the school board, please go to the next school board meeting and address it with them. I’m not voting for this resolution. I see no reason for it,” he said.

Council President John Beauregard appeared undecided, asking Corriveau if he could make the issue relevant to North Smithfield. “I support you 100 percent in what you’re doing. I think your heart’s in the right place and your politics are definitely in the right place, but ... I’m wrestling with this,” he said.

The resolution drew comparisons to the short-lived Nike boycott of 2018, when Beauregard proposed boycotting Nike products in town contracts in response to the company’s sponsorship of Colin Kaepernick. The council approved the boycott but reversed their stance after a week after intense backlash from residents and others around the country.

Corriveau started his presentation with a 10-minute video of Republican legislators grilling Garland on the school board issue. Eijah Leduc, a resident of Woonsocket Hill Road, said the legislators in the video had nothing to do with North Smithfield and argued the resolution would cause more strife and division at a time when there was no room for those things.

“It just seems that Mr. Corriveau unfortunately resonates with them very strongly and has very visceral feelings about Merrick Garland and the Biden administration and is bringing it to that desk where it does not belong,” he said.

Councilor Claire O’Hara called the resolution “marvelous” and expressed support for Corriveau but said she’s afraid of how her support will affect her family, comparing it with her experience after voting in favor of the Nike boycott.

“I don’t even look at football, I just respect the American flag, and from that I had to have alarm systems put on my house. You want to talk about terrorism, these are the same people trying to get this enforced,” she said.

At O’Hara’s request, the council voted 4-1 to table the resolution to discuss at a future meeting. Councilor Kim Alves, the only member who did not speak on the matter, voted against the tabling.

Vadenais noted the resolution would have virtually no effect without a corresponding action by the School Committee. Reached by The Breeze on Tuesday, School Committee Chairman James Lombardi said he has no intention of taking up the issue.

(11) comments

Tim forchange

Thank-you Councilman Corriveau for having the Courage to stand-up to this non-sense. Let me just say that this country is going to SH** and we all need to fight to protect our freedoms. Kids should be unmasked if that is there wish people should not be forced to be vaccinated this is still america and we have freedom and choices once we loose those we will never get them back. everyone has a right to there opinion and to heard, but know one has a right to silence us. I voted for trump and I will vote for Trump again I believe in freedom and choices for me and my kids I also believe in celebrating columbus day and wishing people a Merry Christmas, for those of you that couldn't figure out where I stand.

Thomas Ficca

Very well said !

MCC

As a child in school I followed the lead and direction of teachers and other students. I did not independently make my own decisions. And children have always been vaccinated prior to attending school. Over 600,000 people have died during this pandemic, young and old. Oftentimes, parents are putting more pressure on children who would choose to be masked, if their parents gave them a choice. They do not want to be different. No one is being silenced, but unfortunately the majority rules. And I love to ask, where does this Merry Christmas nonsense come from? Just because Donald Trump said this, does not make it true. And by the way, we all know what Lesko means and that comment and moniker should be removed. It is code for profanity. Like we all didn’t know that.

Lesko Brandin

@MCC: “As a child in school I followed the lead and direction of teachers and other students. I did not independently make my own decisions.”

-That’s called a sheep, not a critical thinking leader.

“Over 600,000 people have died during this pandemic, young and old.“

- NOT “1” death has occurred in children under the age of 18 in Rhode Island. You’ve gotta do better research.

“ Oftentimes, parents are putting more pressure on children who would choose to be masked, if their parents gave them a choice.”

-Speak for yourself…not the majority.

Merry Christmas,

Lesko Brandin

Lesko Brandin

I took time to watch the video this past week. All I can say is, it's about time residents in the town of North Smithfield realize that the liberal mindset on state and local leadership. It's because of the RIASC that it forces the issue to the local level. If the Virginia race didn't wake you up, then I don't know what will. Good for the Councilman that brought this up. It's the PARENTS that have the voice and direction of our children, not a bunch of liberals.

MCC

Lesko Brandin? If you can read this, thank a teacher. I believe that no teacher or School Committee member should be subject to the threats that were exhibited at our very own school committee meeting. Good for the Justice Department, FBI, AG and other law enforcement personnel for wanting to prevent home grown terrorists from acting on their quite frightening beliefs that the loudest and most threatening person in the room has the final say. Steve Corriveau threatened to keep his kids at home if masks were mandated. Well, after a little bit of acting out my belief is that they are in school and wearing masks. To my knowledge he did not sign on to the lawsuit. So actions speak louder than words.

Lesko Brandin

Fauci supporter.

Thomas Ficca

Amen

Truthseeker22

I read the above article and then viewed the youtube video. It’s understood that people have a right to personal beliefs. This is the North Smithfield Town Council, it is charged with addressing the business of the town.

Councilman Corriveau’s playing a Washington based video displaying the theatrics of Jim Jordan and company is using power to promote Steven Corriveau’s agenda.

Mr Beauregard’s quote “I support you 100 percent in what you’re doing. I think your heart’s in the right place and your politics are definitely in the right place,…,” affirms that he learned nothing from the national notoriety he brought to NS with his Nike debacle.

Claire O'hara deserves the same chastising. Her misplaced, endless prattling about the “marvelous resolution” was an attempt to use the pulpit as a vehicle for bullying an astute young man who earlier pointed out the item’s inappropriateness.

Councilors, leave your political alignments outside of the chamber. Mr. Corriveau,save your personal video preferences for the confines of your home. Mrs O'hara, the council chamber is not your classroom. Citizens are not students subject to your grading.

Kudos to Paul Vadenais for recognizing that this had no place in front of the council. The resolution is not relevant to the scope of town council duties.

We have vital,financially impacting issues facing NS. Tabling the resolution ensures that we will waste more valuable council time doing personal bidding. Move on.

nsbob

Wonder if the council person also showed the video of Sen. Durbin...the Democratic Judiciary Committee Chairman..saying.."The same people we see on airplanes and other places," Durbin said. "These are not routine people, incensed or angry. These are people who are acting out their feelings in a violent manner, over and over again...the same people, some of whom we saw here on January 6th." I suspect not. And To the council president...please don't make the same mistake again.

MCC

This rabbit hole again. Did we not learn anything from the Nike resolution? Yes, they are one and the same, only a horse of a different color. What an embarrassment. But, I digress. Having watched the whole sordid saga, including the tape of Jim Jordan, the Penn State wrestling denier and acolyte of DJT, yelling down Merrick Garland we know exactly who the terrorists are. They are the insurrection it’s at the Capital on January 6th and the same individuals who were screaming at and threatening our very own School Committee at the August meeting. I cringe when I hear Claire query Elijah, because you know exactly where her heart is and John clearly supports every bit of Steve’s effort. Thank you Paul and Kim for not following the rabbit down this dirty, dark hole. I am sure that good minded people feel that these mobs should not control our education department.

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