Calling their presence inappropriate, Los Alamos High School Principal Debbie Belew-Nyquist ordered a teacher to escort School Board President Judy Bjarke-McKenzie and School Board Member Nan Holmes off campus property at 1300 Diamond Dr.
Bjarke-McKenzie explained that parents of members of the Junior Student Council planning the senior prom for this spring had contacted her and Holmes because those plans were not being accepted by the administration.
Holmes directed the parents to follow the proper channels and said they contacted her after speaking with the principal who directed them to speak with the student’s advisor. The parents asked Holmes and Bjarke-McKenzie to attend that meeting set for 11 a.m. Jan. 13. When they arrived, the office and lobby area were being evacuated because a student had dropped her pepper spray, which was on her key ring and a student standing nearby picked it up and gave it a squirt. The vapor began to permeate the vicinity.
“A vice principal saw us through the window and waved us on so we walked to the classroom,” Holmes said.
The parents and teacher/prom committee advisor were already there. The teacher stepped outside for a moment and returned, she said, and within a few minutes Belew-Nyquist arrived with several teachers and was “very upset”.
“The principal told me I needed to leave … that it wasn’t appropriate for me to be there and she had a teacher escort me, Nan and the parents off the property,” Bjarke-McKenzie said. “I didn’t mean to make anyone feel intimidated, I just wanted to listen. I’ve gone to other teacher’s classrooms and have never had a problem … I go to all the other schools and am treated very well.”
Holmes said that if a parent asks her to accompany them to a meeting and help guide them, that is their right.
“I think the teacher didn’t know about the meeting and was startled,” Holmes said. “My lessons learned from this is to always let someone know we’re coming to a meeting.”
Belew-Nyquist could not be reached for comment. Superintendent Gene Schmidt told the Los Alamos Daily Post that his understanding from Belew-Nyquist is that she had Bjarke-McKenzie and Holmes “accompanied” off campus rather than “escorted” to ensure their safety because of the pepper spray incident in the school lobby.
A discussion of the senior prom is on the agenda at the school board work session that begins at 5 p.m. today with an executive session at Mountain Elementary School. The work session is open to the public.
“I think we’re going to get to a good place at this meeting,” Holmes said.