Schools

Northampton H.S. principal relieved of duties after calling students ‘asshats’

The remarks were made in an internal message after the Student Union aired its concerns over changes to an honors math class.

Northampton High School will have an interim chief executive for several weeks, as administrators probe what happened when the principal referred to students as “asshats” in an internal communication.

The comment by Principal Lori Vaillancourt came to light through a 267-page compilation of administrative messages released by a former School Committee member, who received the materials in response to a public records request, MassLive reports.

The revelation sparked swift backlash from parents and students, who organized a walkout in protest.

“I think it really represents how she views the student body,” Kendall Reynolds, the high school’s senior class president, told the news outlet. “I don’t think she would have said those words if she viewed the student body positively.”

Former committee member Susan Voss filed the records request to illustrate how the school made the decision to end a 9th and 10th grade honors math program and merge both honors and non-honors students into one class, according to MassLive.

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The Student Union raised concerns about the change. Vaillancourt subsequently wrote in one message the students were “trying to decide where they stand.”

In another message, the principal told a co-worker: “Keep talking about equity and they will be in our camp. They are mad because they weren’t part of the decision-making.”

Vaillancourt apologized in an email last Tuesday, writing, “The word choice was unprofessional and hurtful and I apologize.”

She also approved of the student protest.

“I hope time will allow the community to interpret my words as a human moment derived from workplace frustration,” she wrote.

Last Wednesday, students walked out of classes, many while wearing stickers reading, “Hello, my name is Asshat,” according to the news site.

Some students told MassLive the remarks were not the only reasons they turned out. Some described Vaillancourt as hard to reach.

“There have been students [who] have been trying to talk to her and work with her for years now, and we have gotten nothing in return from her,” Lucy Bernhard, a senior student, said. “So at this point, I think the students feel like we cannot trust Principal Vaillancourt.”

According to Superintendent John Provost, the district will hire an independent investigator to review the situation, and will bring in a former principal to helm the school for three weeks.

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“My immediate goal is to maintain the functioning of the high school, so that students and staff can continue to receive the support they need while the complaints that have been raised are fully and fairly investigated,” Provost told the news outlet.

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