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Outrage over Bedford dean's support of guidance counselor who molested 14-year-old

Union Leader Correspondent

July 24. 2018 1:49PM
At center, Superintendent Chip McGee of the Bedford School District speaks Monday during an emergency school board meeting. (Kimberly Houghton)

BEDFORD — With some parents demanding the resignation of school administrators, school board members said Monday night there is more they need to learn about why the high school’s dean of students testified as a character witness for a former guidance counselor who sexually abused a 14-year-old.

“There is no gray area. You either support an admitted child rapist/abuser or you support students and victims,” Tracy Richmond of Newfane Road said after the meeting. “You cannot do both and you cannot be a dean of students and you cannot be our superintendent and lie to our community.”

Dozens of parents attended an emergency school board meeting Monday at which the board discussed the best way to collect public input amid the overwhelming number of complaints that have surfaced since Bedford High School Dean of Students Zanna Blaney testified as a character witness during Kristie Torbick’s sentencing.

Torbick committed the crimes after she had left the Bedford School District and began working at Exeter High School; a Rockingham County Superior Court judge recently sentenced Torbick for the sexual abuse.

“At least two resignations should happen,” Stacey Shurman, a Bedford resident for about six years, said after the meeting. “I can’t believe that this even happened.”

She said that at the least, Blaney and Superintendent Chip McGee should resign.

In a statement to the Bedford community sent on July 14, McGee said his staff received a request from Torbick’s attorney for testimony about her character. He said district officials “agonized” over whether to send someone to testify in support of Torbick at her sentencing hearing and eventually decided they would send Blaney to “share information only from the view of a supervisor and only using the actual written evaluations.”

The school board has decided to investigate the matter, but took no public comment during Monday’s meeting.

“We have to figure out what tools we have available to take public comment ... I don’t know how to handle them at this volume,” school board Chairman Jay Nash said.

Dozens of parents attend an emergency school board meeting Monday in Bedford. Following the meeting, several parents called for Superintendent Chip McGee and Bedford High School Dean of Students Zanna Blaney to resign. (Kimberly Houghton)

Jen DeAngelis, board member, said that Bedford residents want to know the facts. At this point, DeAngelis said she does not have enough information about the case. 

Another board meeting is planned for today; it will be held in non-public session.

Lisa Rick, a local parent, said after the meeting she is worried that because of the position voiced by the dean of students, Bedford High students will no longer feel comfortable speaking with members of the guidance department about serious issues such as sexual assaults or bullying. 

“That is appalling. It is offensive,” said Rick, maintaining that Blaney’s credibility is shattered and the superintendent has not been completely forthright with the public about how events transpired. 

A phone number listed for Blaney has been disconnected; she was unavailable for comment. McGee said recently that he regrets the decision to have Bedford represented at Torbick’s hearing.

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