Union Public Schools Board Member Under Fire For Bizarre Email To Concerned Parents

Aug 10, 2020

A Union Public Schools board of education member is facing scrutiny for an email response to concerned district parents regarding plans for back-to-school during the pandemic.

Adam and Michelle Palmer wrote board member Jeff Bennett an email expressing concerns over an in-person return to learning, which the Tulsa Health Department is recommending against due to the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak in Tulsa County. 

"Perhaps this is not the time to put a lot of children in the same room/building for several hours a day," the Palmers wrote. 

In response, Bennett sent back a rambling message suggesting he questions official facts, figures and expertise regarding COVID-19, which he refers to by an ethnically insensitive name also favored by President Donald Trump.

"I'm not convinced anyone, certainly not the experts, most defiantly (sic) not me know much about covid," Bennett said.

"The press want you to be in tune with the number of cases as bad news sells and those numbers are going up but death rate is going down," Bennett wrote. "I certainly appreciate the trust you place in myself and the board but there is no right decision, certainly not for everyone." (The average daily number of deaths has actually been increasing statewide since mid-June.)

In a tweet about the letter, Adam Palmer writes, "Can't say I feel comfortable with this person making decisions for all the students in the Union school system."

In a statement, Union Public Schools said they had confirmed the email attributed to Bennett was legitimate.

“Please know that as an elected school board member, the thoughts and opinions expressed in his letter to this Union parent are his own and do not reflect the thinking of the leadership of Union Public Schools," the statement reads.

"We have a very serious decision to make on Monday regarding whether we will have school in-person or via distance learning in the fall. We will make the best decision possible based on the advice of public health experts and the best available information.”

Superintendent Kirt Hartzler is expected to recommend to the board at a meeting on Monday evening that the district start remotely due to the pandemic.