Principal apologizes over anti-Obama group

Last modified: Saturday, May 08, 2010
Winnisquam Regional High School Principal Ronna Cadarette issued an apology yesterday for her membership in an anti-Barack Obama Facebook group.

"Recent events have caused me great pause and reflection in my personal and professional roles," Cadarette said in a statement distributed throughout the school and posted on the district's website. "I take full responsibility for the repercussions from my actions."

The lone group on Cadarette's public Facebook profile referenced celebrities who died in 2009. It was titled: "Dear Lord, This Year You Took My Favorite Actor, Patrick Swazie (sic). You Took My Favorite Actress Farah (sic) Fawcett. You Took My Favorite Singer, Michael Jackson. I Just Wanted to Let You Know, My Favorite President is Barack Obama. Amen."

Cadarette, who has since taken down her public Facebook profile, said in her statement that about two weeks ago the group was forwarded to her Facebook account, "similar to a chain e-mail." She "unwarily" clicked to join the group and was responding to "the context of the paragraph and not to the content," she said.

Facebook users can click a "Like" box next to a group to join, and group members are counted as "fans." The anti-Obama group had 1,188,721 fans yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, eight high school students wore T-shirts protesting Cadarette's association with the group. Made by Charles Sargent, whose daughter Sarah is a junior at the school, the shirts read "My Favorite Principal Is ____ Amen."

Senior Monica Schaffer said she and five others were called down individually to Cadarette's office and told to take the shirts off or cover them up. Three of the shirts were confiscated, Sarah Sargent said. John Teague, the district's attorney, said none of the students were disciplined for wearing the shirts.

Cadarette referred comment about the shirts and the statement to Superintendent Tammy Davis, who could not be reached for comment.

"There are times when inappropriate clothing is pointed out to a student, and they are asked to make a change," Teague said. Teague noted the student handbook's banning of clothing that "disrupts the learning environment and distracts from learning" or is "inherently offensive."

While the students said they were exercising a right to nonviolent protest, Teague said the "community" reaction to the Facebook group has shown that its message is inappropriate.

Last week, Cadarette said she viewed the group as "a joke" that she found funny, but not offensive. She said she did not "wish our president dead in any way."

"Because of this experience and the unintended consequences of something that was a joke, I will now not exercise my First Amendment rights, and I will have no Facebook page," she said last week.

Yesterday, Cadarette said she fully understands and appreciates "that there are those who would find my apparent actions and the resultant affiliation unacceptable and offensive."

English teacher Neal Byles, who challenged the district's decision not to show President Obama's back-to-school speech when it aired in September, had called Cadarette's membership in the group, often a forum for racially charged discussion, "unconscionable."

In her statement, Cadarette said she did not realize until she received a call from the Monitor that she had linked her Facebook page to a "politically inflammatory website." (The Monitor did not call Cadarette, but was contacted by her after calling other school employees).

"I wish to unequivocally state I do not support this organization, the content of its webpage, or its objectives," she said. "I apologize to anyone who was offended by my actions."