AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Controversy in Amherst Regional Public Schools (ARPS) continue, as LGBTQ+ students and their supporters put pressure on the school system to address bullying by other students and staff.

Rally organizers say the school committee has quote, “failed to protect queer students who are victims of homophobic and transphobic bullying.”

Students and community members being heard loud and clear here in Amherst, in a rally to to support LGBTQ+ youth in the Amherst Regional Public Schools. Following months of controversy surrounding district leaders, including superintendent Doctor Michael Morris, alleged lack of response to homophobic and transphobic bullying.

“Because these adults failed him, individually and collectively, my son has been struggling that last two years,” says Kara, Parent of ARPS Student. Dr. Morris recently returned to his position, after taking a temporary leave for personal health reasons earlier this year.

Around the same time, the Amherst Pelham Education Association voted ‘no confidence’ in Morris, for what they say was his failure to promptly address the anti-LGBTQ+ behavior. Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham, was placed on administrative leave, following calls for her resignation, and concerns also prompted a Title IX discrimination investigation.

Ali Wicks-Lim, LGBTQ+ Community Member, telling 22News, “Community members felt that Mike Morris should also be on leave pending the results of the Title IX investigation. It seems to us to be a conflict of interest that he would be receiving the investigation that looked into his behavior in leadership.”

Now, more pressure on the school committee, as LGBTQ+ students and their supporters continue their calls for a meeting with the committee to address the return of Dr. Morris during the investigation.

In a statement to 22News, the chair of the school committee said the following;

“We absolutely take matters affecting all of our students seriously and have certainly viewed the issues surrounding the bullying of LGBTQIA+ students in our district as being of paramount importance. Some of us identify as being part of that very community while others of us have children who identify as being LGBTQIA+, so the idea that we would somehow have no interest in protecting these or any other children misleading and unfortunately so. 

It has been our intent to get all of the information possible regarding what has transpired in our schools as a means to taking meaningful steps towards preventing anything even remotely similar to what has been alleged on the Amherst-Pelham Regional Middle School. That is no easy task and is certainly not something we take lightly. 

It is necessary for due process to play out while we take steps towards helping our district heal as well as working on shoring up safeguards meant to protect all of our students, including those who have experienced marginalization or maltreatment in our district.”

Local News

Kristina D’Amours is a reporter who is a part of the evening 22News team. Follow Kristina on X @KristinaD_WWLP and view her bio to see more of her work.