It has been nearly eight months since Anthony Pacherille's son, also named Anthony, was accused of shooting a classmate before turning the gun on himself.
However, the elder Pacherille said he is only now starting to see anger and hostility come out toward him and his family.
During a Cooperstown Central School Board of Education meeting Wednesday night, Pacherille said that since Cooperstown Central School held panel discussions on respecting members of the school community regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, he and his family have become targets of hostile feelings.
The panel discussions seemed to anger some other parents, who told the board of education at a recent meeting that they were not appropriate for the students.
Pacherille said that hostility appears to have reached a high point Saturday night, when his family's house was vandalized.
He said he cannot prove that there is a connection between the panel discussions and what happened to his home, but finds it to be an incredible coincidence. Pacherille said several people have approached him to express their anger, and three people have gone as far as to assume his son is homosexual because of the choice of topic.
Pacherille told board members that he felt the need to express his uneasiness with the committee responsible for planning events such as the panel discussions.
"I had to ask if anyone really
knows what the committee is really for," he said. "I'm not saying the intentions and motivations are bad, but maybe things are being done too hastily. I think now is the time to take a deep breath and ask why and who are we hurting here."
Pacherille said he is not angry.
"I'm concerned because I don't know who is guiding the committee and what they plan to do next," he said. "I have to question the committee's intent."
Pacherille said if things are handled recklessly, people will get hurt.
"This could potentially lead to more violence, and nobody wants that," he said.
Property can be fixed, Pacherille said. However, he said he is more concerned for the welfare of his daughter, who attends CCS, his wife and himself.
"I'm not sure if I got any satisfying answers from the school," he said.
CCS Superintendent C.J. Hebert said the district will continue to provide for the social, emotional and academic needs of its students. He said the assembly Pacherille mentioned was not a standalone program but was a part of the district's ongoing character-education
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efforts aimed at assisting students with acceptance and looking at diversity.
Hebert said the Acceptance Program Committee was formed in late April or early May and has looked at a variety of topics. For example, he said, the group has looked at race and weight and body imaging, and might address socio-economic differences and the issues that go along with that.
According to Secondary Principal Michael Cring, the committee is made up of about eight teachers, guidance counselors, staff and himself.
Hebert said he is unsure why people are connecting the November assembly to the shooting that happened April 2. "I was ... not here at the time of the incident but know there were a couple of programs directly after," he said.
Hebert said Cring has been in contact with Mary Bonderoff, program coordinator for the center for Multicultural Experiences at the State University College at Oneonta, since his 2009 appointment as principal for sixth through 12th grades. The two have been working on how to best implement the programs offered, Hebert said.
Bonderoff, who trained the panelists for the November assembly, did not return a phone message Thursday. However, at a recent board meeting she said the idea behind the events was to have the students listen to stories, get an understanding that everyone is not the same, and learn to be respectful and kind to one another.
CCS student Shyah Miller read a letter written by senior Robbie Kats during the same meeting. The letter thanked the board for the panel discussions.
The letter said: "I understand if members of the surrounding area are outraged or intimidated by the presence of such a panel in their children's school. However, we must realize that our nation was founded with the separation of church and state as primary belief. In my opinion, panels promoting tolerance and acceptance of all sexualities can only be enriching to a community. There was no conspiracy or plot behind the panel; no 'homosexual agenda' was forced upon the students. The purpose of the panel was simply informational, and it should be taken as such."
Attached was a list of about 20 student signatures of those who support openness and acceptance of all sexualities and said they found the panel to be beneficial and informative.
Not all of the initiatives at the middle/high school have been large-scale assemblies, Hebert said.
"I am certainly not naive enough to think some programs held last spring were not in response to the incident, but that in no way affects our overall decision to continue to carry out our initiatives," Hebert said. "I certainly feel sorry for the Pacherilles and what happened to their house, but there is no intent to link what happened to the ongoing programs and initiatives with the students."