What is "disparagement"?

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The School Committee released its Separation Agreement with Dr. Brand and as promised, there were few surprises, except for one. The agreement is as has been reported in the public statement which we have all read (one year's salary, minus any earnings in education; leave the School system on June 30th, etc.) You can read it at the following link: http://www.abschools.org/news-events/separationandreleaseagreement

The surprise to me was there was no "confidentiality" clause. The attorney actually stated as such during the School Committee meeting in the auditorium on May 24th, but I didn't believe him because it wasn't consistent with the behavior we all witnessed that night by the School Committee members.

They kept saying that they would get into legal trouble for breach of contract if they said anything about Dr. Brand, if they tried to speak for him, or if they released any further details. They used the Separation Agreement again and again to avoid answering questions. They said that if they broke the agreement, they would be in breach of contract and the School District (which means, eventually, the taxpayers) would be subject to a lawsuit for damages. So they were merely trying to follow the Agreement and not violate any of its material terms, in the best interests of the taxpayers, or so they kept saying.

But in the Agreement, there is no such prohibition against speaking. So unless there is another agreement somewhere (which there should not be, because paragraph 13 says this is the entire agreement), then the School Committee has either gotten very poor legal advice, is being overly cautious, doesn't understand the meaning of the word "disparagement," or is using the agreement as an excuse for not answering questions. And this is why I am surprised that they so promptly and willingly released this agreement.

So to help them, I've done some internet research on the meaning of the word in question. They may wish to share this with legal counsel.

WHAT IS DISPARAGEMENT?

From Dictionary.com:

Disparage: verb (used with object), disparaged, disparaging. 1. to speak of or treat slightingly; depreciate; belittle: Do not disparage good manners.

2. to bring reproach or discredit upon; lower the estimation of:
Your behavior will disparage the whole family.

Disparagement: noun
1.the act of disparaging.

If I said that the School Committee was a bunch of bozos who are incompetent, that would be disparaging. But if I said that I disagreed with how the School Committee has handled this issue, and that it could have been handled more transparently, more professionally, and with more sensitivity, then that would be constructive criticism and an opinion, but not disparaging.

Obviously, the School Committee shouldn't call anyone names, especially Dr. Glenn Brand. But having "educational and operational" philosophical differences is human and understandable in such a complex environment and isn't disparaging whatsoever. And explaining what those differences are is purely informational, not disparaging.

I'm no lawyer, but I'd say there is zero chance that Dr. Glenn Brand would sue the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District under this Separation Agreement if the professional disagreements that reportedly led to his resignation were discussed in detail, so long as there was no name-calling and such.

So the School Committee's decision not to directly address the friction between Dr. Brand and the Committee, which is being blamed on the Separation Agreement, appears to be a deliberate falsehood.

Now, by not explaining these differences publicly, they are obviously trying to avoid the next conclusion, which is: If there really were no significant educational and operational philosophical differences that would justify such harsh and extreme behavior, then what is really going on? (And, secondarily, how do they justify misleading the public as they did?)

Why would anyone trust such a group's communications and decisions which are misleading at best and more likely patently false? (Oops, there I go again...)

At this point, it sounds to me like the odds of Dr. Brand's resignation being a professional disagreement that have been amicably resolved by agreeing to part company as friends is slim to none.

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