OCSD Scandal: Onward we tread, in search of truth

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Where will all this lead — the truths, mistruths, distortions and contradictions? We suspect in the next couple months a grand jury convened by the State Attorney’s Office will provide appropriate direction and action.

When reflecting on the scandal that’s enveloped Okaloosa County School District, famous words from a former U.S. president seem appropriate.

“You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

Abraham Lincoln, thank you.

Our team at the Northwest Florida Daily News has taken a lot of heat while investigating the truths, mistruths, distortions and contradictions involved with trying to make public exactly what is happening here at a destination folks around the country call paradise.

“Fake news!” some school district supporters have screamed across social media.

“Lies!” has bellowed from a dwindling cast of administration supporters.

That, however, is understandable. Big news in a small town is hard to interpret for some. It’s especially tricky waters to navigate when folks you considered worthy of trust are involved.

Nearly 50 published stories into coverage of school district scandals since Aug. 5, troubling facts have been uncovered.

Special needs children were being inappropriately treated by teachers at Kenwood Elementary and Silver Sands School. It took years before multiple sexual harassment claims against an OCSD employee led to termination in December. A school resource officer showed “wanton indifference” in assisting and reporting child abuse investigations at Kenwood. An instructor found to have assisted students at Wright Elementary on an assessment test was never disciplined.

We also learned key school officials at times have exhibited faulty memories and truthfulness, had moments of inappropriate social media contact with the public and violated Florida’s Public Records Act.

Worse yet, a collar of embarrassment has been draped on school board members and the constituents they represent. Why? They knew nothing about some of the dark secrets that have been revealed under a beacon of truth.

The Daily News has been stonewalled at times in attempts to receive comment or public records requests, patiently endured ridicule by certain school district officials and assisted when called upon for information in our possession by investigating legal agencies.

Please, however, remember: As much as this is your community, it’s also ours. We are emboldened by the First Amendment and driven by the truth. We are the watchdog for Okaloosa County. We hold officials accountable for reprehensible behavior. We demand that all individuals, especially those paid by tax dollars, give honest accounts for their actions.

For this community, these events — which are quite unlike any other in the county’s history — are a travesty. (Here’s an assist for those who have been revealed to currently be struggling in the educational field: definition of “travesty” — a false, absurd, or distorted representation of something.)

Where will all this lead — the truths, mistruths, distortions and contradictions? We suspect in the next couple months a grand jury convened by the State Attorney’s Office will provide appropriate direction and action.

So, onward we tread, in search of truth.

Our work is far from done.

Bob Heist is executive editor for the Northwest Florida Daily News.

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