Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Mayor's Bully Pulpit

Penney and Curt Wolfe, whose son Billy attended Fayetteville High School, filed suit in federal court on Wednesday against the Fayetteville School District and Byron Lynn Zeagler, an assistant principal at the high school. They claim that district personnel failed to protect their son from physical and online harassment and beatings by bullies at the school. You will recall that this case was foreshadowed by an article in The New York Times on March 24th and subsequent national media attention.

When asked about the article, Mayor Dan Coody said, "I read it. After all the good press I have brought to Fayetteville, this does not help." Yes, it was all about Dan Coody. He said nothing about how bullying is a problem, or how the city could work collaboratively with the school district to improve student safety, just disappointment about the negative publicity. Image was more important than reality.

Coody went on to cast aspersions on The New York Times, the favorite whipping boy of right wing politicians, for undermining all the good publicity he had gotten. "I understand there is more to the story than what 'fits' the media's perspective." That was red meat for conservative bloggers and all they needed to pile on the press. Dr. Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., Walton Family Endowed Chair of School Vouchers and Charter Schools at the University of Arkansas, was even more concerned with bashing The New York Times than he was in blaming the incident on the existence teachers' unions.

Mayor Coody should be called as an expert witness in the case to testify about how media bias in reporting on the incident has prevented him from getting more good publicity by claiming credit for everything good that happens in Fayetteville.

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