Teachers, Parents, Clash over Fox Chapel Transgender Teacher
Last updated 8/21/2023 at 11:33am
BROOKSVILLE – If you thought the Fox Chapel Middle School saga was old news, think again. During last night's Hernando County School Board meeting, parents, teachers, and members of the community voiced their concerns over how school officials handled the investigation into threats made by Fox Chapel teacher Ashlee Renczkowski.
Coincidentally, just prior to the school board meeting, Superintendent John Stratton announced he was withdrawing his name for consideration as the new Brevard Public Schools Superintendent. Stratton was one of four finalists, but the ill-timed Fox Chapel controversy may have led him to suspend his search for a higher paying position.
When R News broke the Fox Chapel story, Renczkowski's supporters immediately criticized our report, claiming our sources were not credible. Hostilities intensified on both sides of the issue, due to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office refusing to reply to our numerous inquiries, and the School District purporting to R News that nothing occurred.
There was standing room only during last night's school board meeting and many of those in attendance were union members who excoriated board member Shannon Rodriguez for being vocal about her religious convictions and demanding answers into the Fox Chapel incident. But they didn't stop there. A few speakers took aim at R News, calling our report inaccurate and our motives bigoted. "No reputable news outlet has reported on any coverup by the school board because there wasn't one. There wasn't even a real threat," said Donna Dasher. She goes on to explain why R News is "unreliable." "Let's take a look at this coverup claim. The first thing we need to ask is if the source is reliable and credible and the answer is no. A guy who makes his living trying to get people riled up and can be heard on his own recording at the January 6th riot yelling, 'storm the capitol,' but later claims he was only there to report on the news is not reliable or credible." Dasher goes on to suggest that R News is bigoted because we reported on a transgender teacher. We would like to correct Dasher on her claim that I [Tom Lemons] stated "Storm the Capitol." What I actually said and was, "They are storming the Capitol," referring to the thousands of protestors breaching the police line. Additionally, R News has and never will divulge sources who request anonymity, and we would never report anonymous testimony as fact that could not be substantiated. The facts of this case were substantiated after officials finally released statements.
Lisa Masserio, Hernando Classroom Teachers Association President said, "All of the disinformation regarding this situation began from an outlet online. Some people are choosing to believe the reporting was accurate, however, it was not. That report was weaponized into [reports] against teachers. It is dangerous to believe everything you see online. There have been more and more lies made up to inflame the situation by a very small but hostile group of extremists within our community. They come up here and attack our schools on many topics. It's been happening again and again and again. They've been afforded a platform to undermine and criticize based on conspiracy theories they picked up somewhere online or on cable news. They are causing disruption and chaos, and for what? To impost their views on the rest of us and influence how our students and our children are educated?"
Conservatives like Mom's for Liberty Vice President Monty Floyd believes the harm is coming from left-wing ideologies being pushed on students in the classroom. Floyd, like Rodriguez have been very vocal about inappropriate literature being available in school libraries and teachers promoting gender fluidity as something that should be embraced and accepted in the classroom. Floyd also touched on the Fox Chapel issue and defended our reporting of the incident, stating, "About the source, it was not Mr. Lemons but an anonymous sheriff's deputy who risked their career to expose this to him. These facts may anger some in this room but really, frankly, I don't give a good damn about how your feelings are or your warped agenda." He goes on to say, "What this district did, knowingly and willfully, working to cover up a serious safety threat at Fox Chapel from March 14th to April 7th, is not only egregious but when you view it through the lens of the Nashville shooting takes this entire thing past gross negligence and ineptitude it makes this a clear case as what can only be described as reckless child endangerment. God forbid parents get wind of this teacher, according to his own reddit posts and by his own admissions on reddit, bragged about how 90% of his students are transgender. Funny, how did he reach this consensus? I though he was a math teacher." Floyd finished his statement by demanding the resignation of "those who took part in this."
Janice Crisp drove all the way from Brevard County to personally tell John Stratton that he is not welcome in their county. "Stratton, you were an applicant for Brevard County, and I want to thank you for withdrawing because the biggest reason I came here was to tell you we didn't want you," says Crisp. She continues, "The citizens of Brevard were very concerned because you broke trust here and that's the biggest thing we wanted is trust and we don't want you there. We flipped our board because they are like you – we flipped them – and they are very conservative. We will not stand by and let liberal ideology ruin our children. You should resign, you should apologize to those students, you should apologize to every citizen of this county."
R News obtained copies of dash cam audio/video that was provided to Mom's for Liberty by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office of deputies interviewing Ashlee Renczkowski. The audio is extremely distorted, but bits and pieces of the discussion are fairly clear. During the interview Renczkowski is heard saying "How much of this will be public record." The deputy responded that it shouldn't be but that he wasn't sure. The deputy asks Renczkowski if he would like to go to a facility and he responds, "No thank you, I have wonderful plans this weekend." Renczkowski later explains that he has a meeting with a new counselor on Monday but says, "therapy is not going to work for me."
At the conclusion of the school board meeting, Stratton and Rodriguez bickered over who was responsible for failing to handle the situation properly. Stratton says Rodriquez "often twists his words." He goes on to explain that he followed proper procedures, and if they failed then the district should look into changing those procedures.
Renczkowski is supposed to be working in a location away from students, but R News has received some complaints from parents who say they've seen the teacher with his partner in Fox Chapel classrooms. That information has not been confirmed by officials.
The Florida Department of Education continues their investigation into the Fox Chapel incident.