A Trend: Valdez High School Principal Placed On Administrative Leave; District Fails To Clarify Why

VALDEZ SCHOOL LOCKDOWN  This Is The Third Widely-Publicized Incident In Less Than A Year… Involving Fears About A Female Alaskan Principal  ...

VALDEZ SCHOOL LOCKDOWN 

This Is The Third Widely-Publicized Incident In Less Than A Year… Involving Fears About A Female Alaskan Principal 



If you were reading the Valdez City School Facebook site this month, the school year of 2024 was looking pretty normal in the little town down the highway from the Copper River Valley.

On August 22nd, there was a photo on the Valdez City School Facebook site, and the notice: "Valdez City Schools are excited to have students back..." On August 31st, there was a funny notice on Facebook about the buses, featuring a pretend dog named "Nugget" riding a Valdez City School bus.

But the snappy little "Nugget Rides The Bus" graphic belied the apparent actual gravity of the situation at Valdez schools.  In just a few short days, things had fallen apart. Valdez high school students had been locked down in the gym -- as if it were a possible school shooting. And it was still unclear why. 

•••
Then a long and confusing story about the incident in Valdez unfurled on the evening news on Thursday evening, August 31st on KTUU. 

It was impossible to understand the plot line. KTUU said that parents and students had no idea what was going on. Nobody would definitively tell the public anything. Yet, it turned out (and this was the most stunning part of the tale) that somehow this was all triggered by the most unlikely of people -- the district's new high school principal, a woman named Gayle Brown.

•••
The Valdez incident reveals a disturbing trend in small Alaskan schools. It's the third time in a year that something very confusing and very serious -- involving a female school administrator -- has happened. 

Other school-related safety incidents have happened, too, of course over the years, including in the Copper Valley. But they revolve mainly around fears that a student might endanger others through threatening behavior or bringing a firearm to school. Generally, lockdowns are associated with school shootings. 

This new Alaskan trend, though, involves emergency responses to the perceived behavior of a school principal -- not the behavior of an out-of-control student. 

•••
Here's a brief rundown of the other two principal-related school incidents that have occurred in the past year: 

OCTOBER, 2022: KIPNUK PRINCIPAL BANISHED 
The first big incident involving a school principal happened in October, 2022, when Alaska State Troopers were contacted by the Lower Kuskokwim School District that a village school principal had locked herself in her office after tribal police tried to take her into custody by serving a banishment order for "unknown reasons" according to the Trooper report. When Troopers arrived in the village by air the next day, tribal police blocked the boardwalk, and eventually, the principal and other school staff were evacuated to safety by plane. 

JANUARY, 2023: TROOPERS ARREST MAT-SU PRINCIPAL 
The second well-known strange incident involved another rural school principal. It happened in January, 2023, when Alaska State Troopers, following a faked judicial court order that was given to them, arrested Mary Fulp, the principal of Colony High in the Mat-Su Valley. 
Fulp was the 2022 Alaska Principal of the Year, but some of her family members apparently thought she needed to have a psychiatric evaluation, according to reports at the time. Using the faked court order, two Troopers came and took her away. When they realized they had been duped, the Troopers officially apologized. 

The Valdez incident is the third major incident involving a principal in less than a year. 

•••
According to KTUU, the new principal of the Valdez high school had told her staff she'd be leaving on August 29th, and "left the building... without incident" that day. 

Nobody is saying why she left, what she said, or what danger she posed. But the city school superintendent was quoted as saying that "she walked to her car and presumably drove home" and that no police were called and no students or staff were endangered. 

Nevertheless, he said "a staff member" called an "unauthorized" meeting, and students were put in the gym. Students were not allowed to leave, according to KTUU, and they received no explanation why. 

•••

By the morning of Friday, September 1st, the school superintendent, in an attempt to clarify things in Valdez, asked people to stop spreading rumors and wrote on the school district Facebook site: 


 

Hello All,
I feel compelled to dispel a lot of speculation. Regarding the High School Principal position. The principal is on Administrative Leave pending an investigation and I will be working out of the High School as acting principal for as long as necessary.

Regarding the events of yesterday within the high school, there was a meeting called by the staff in response to an email the principal sent out. Students were asked to report to the gymnasium. I want to be clear that at no point were students in danger, nor was there a threat of any kind to students or staff and it was very brief.

There is a lot of disturbing speculation and the perpetuation of these rumors are ultimately damaging to the education of our students, which is and will remain our top priority.

This situation could not be predicted and there is a process that must be respected. To protect all parties, personnel matters cannot be discussed. I want to thank you all for your care and advocacy for our students.
Thank you,
Tim Bauer
Superintendent
Valdez City Schools


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