Chief Thomas P. Browne reports that the Burlington Police Department identified an individual who made a potentially threatening Facebook post that was directed at a school department employee, and determined the post was not meant to convey a threat.
On Saturday, Burlington Police became aware of a post on Facebook that was directed at a school department employee, and which contained potentially threatening language.
Police launched an immediate investigation, and were able to determine the post was made from a newly created Facebook account that included a fake name. Police were additionally able to identify the individual who created the account and made the post as a former school department employee.
Burlington Police spoke with the individual in question and conducted a threat assessment that determined there is no immediate threat. The individual who made the post intended to make a political comment, but had no ill will nor intent to threaten anyone.
Because no criminal charges will be filed, Burlington Police are not identifying the individual behind the post.
“Burlington Police take all threats against residents and public officials with the utmost seriousness, and I am pleased to report our investigation into this matter revealed no active threats,” said Chief Browne. “Public officials should be able to conduct their duties without fear of intimidation. I encourage all residents to use common sense when posting on social media to alleviate the potential lack of context that inevitably occurs in emotional conversations.”
Police did not identify the school employee that was the subject of the online comments but it was revealed during Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting that it was BPS Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ray Porch.
Superintendent Eric Conti began the meeting by addressing the incident and his strong feelings about it.
“I just wanted to acknowledge that an employee, a member of my district leadership team, had to deal with language that made us question his safety,” he said. “I want to state that we will not tolerate this treatment of anybody. I thank the committee for your collective and immediate response and the immediate support expressed from the Burlington Police Department, Chief [Thomas] Brown and Deputy Chief [Robert] Kirchner.”
“I want to apologize to Mr. Porch as a community leader,” Superintendent Conti continued. “We can do better and we will do better. I’m sorry Ray. I stand with you. I appreciate your significant contributions to improve the district in your short time here.”
Conti added that since news of the incident came out, there have been many expressions of support for Mr. Porch and the district.
Finally, I learned this incident is like a pebble in a still pond,” he said. “There are ripples that have triggered responses from other members of our community, including students. In addition to addressing the immediate concern we need to offer our support to those who may have also been impacted by this event or had this event trigger feelings from prior experiences. We will be providing this support.”
Finally, Committee Chair Thomas Murphy said they were also in support of Porch.
“On behalf of the committee I would echo everything the superintendent just said, Ray, and I have full confidence from getting to know you from the last six months that you’re going to be able to overcome this hurdle and move forward and I look forward to working with you as time goes on,” he said.