The New Westminster district parent advisory council is calling for the resignation of a trustee who admitted to running a fake Twitter account that targeted critics of the school board, among others.
Trustee Dee Beattie has been at the centre of a growing storm of controversy since late Wednesday evening (June 14), when parent Sarah Arboleda went public on Twitter with a thread accusing the trustee of being the real person behind the @alfromNW Twitter account.
The account, professing to belong to “Allan Whitterstone,” had taken shots at a variety of people over the past several years — including former trustee Mary Lalji, current trustee Danielle Connelly, former B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring, and teacher/COVID awareness advocate Jennifer Heighton. In recent months “Allan” had also gone after Arboleda and her partner after they publicly criticized a school board decision to relocate daycares out of downtown-area schools.
The account was shut down after Arboleda's thread was published.
(You can see more details in a previous Record story here.)
On Friday evening, Beattie admitted to being the culprit and announced she was taking a medical leave of absence from her school board position, citing mental health and chronic pain issues.
Community First New West, the NDP-affiliated electoral organization with whom Beattie won a second term in office in October, severed its ties with Beattie on Friday evening. The New Westminster school board, in a statement from chair Maya Russell, also called for her immediate resignation.
In a statement issued Sunday, June 18, the New Westminster DPAC echoed the call for Beattie’s immediate resignation.
“Ms. Beattie’s behaviour, where she spent years bullying and harassing parents, educators, media and former trustees, is unacceptable,” the statement reads. “This behaviour was not a one-off decision, this is a pattern of calculated, intentionally hurtful and targeted behaviour by someone that sits on the district’s anti-racism committee, that has been exhibited for a number of years.”
DPAC’s statement objects to Beattie taking a leave of absence.
“Not only has Ms. Beattie egregiously contravened the Trustee Code of Conduct, she is now asking for taxpayer dollars to be spent for her to take time off. In a growing district that is experiencing financial pressures, public taxpayer dollars should not be going to support someone who has behaved in such a despicable manner,” it says.
The DPAC statement says the behaviour of Beattie as trustee has destroyed its confidence in the judgment of the board and asks how the board will rebuild that broken trust.
You can read the full text of the statement at the New Westminster DPAC website.
How can a B.C. school trustee be removed from office?
Numerous New Westminster residents have questioned on social media whether Beattie should be fired. The B.C. School Act, however, does not provide a mechanism for removing a school board member except in extremely limited circumstances.
Under the School Act, there are a very limited number of reasons for a trustee to be removed from office without their voluntary resignation.
A trustee can be disqualified from holding office if they are “continuously absent from board meetings for a period of three consecutive months, unless the absence is because of illness or with the leave of the board.”
A trustee can also be removed from office if they are convicted for an indictable offence or an offence under section 163 (2) of the School Act (which deals with unauthorized expenses).