Bayonne High School senior Petra Ghaly, the elected Student Council representative on the city’s Board of Education, who openly supports the Republican Party, has lived in fear since she received death threats last June on social media from several students at the high school, but were most severe by one student. Ghaly spoke with Hudson TV reporter Jeff Henig, to outline in detail, what happened last year and the response, she says, has not been appropriate by the Board of Education.
After Hudson TV emailed Superintendent of Schools John Niesz, Board of Education President Maria Valado and Bayonne High School Principal Richard Baccarella seeking comment on the situation, we were informed by the Superintendent that, “The school district cannot comment on matters dealing with individual student(s) and student(s) discipline.”
After Ghaly overwhelmingly won the election, she started receiving death threats. Under New Jersey law, political affiliation is not protected from being discriminated against. Ghaly goes into detail during the interview about this issue and the difference between threats being made on a personal device versus a school Chrome device, and why the high school’s Tech Department said there was nothing it could do regarding the matter.
Ghaly provided Hudson TV with an email detailing a telephone conversation she and her parents had recently with the high school’s Tech Department. The email recounting the telephone conversation clearly shows either a lack of understanding on the school’s part, or a deliberate avoidance by the Tech Department to cooperate:
Hello Mr. Henig,
When Ghaly approached the Board of Education with the information about the death threats last summer, the district should have initiated what is called a HIB investigation within ten days. HIB stands for Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying investigation. That did not happen. Now Ghaly says the district, in the past few weeks, has been trying to get her to agree to the HIB investigation. She has refused and she elaborates why during the interview, including the fact that her family has consulted with an attorney with 25 years of HIB expertise.
Ghaly went to the Bayonne Police Department last summer, which investigated the entire matter, and ultimately the death threats from the students stopped. But the story doesn’t end there.
Ghaly believes there is a loophole in the law where students are not protected from political retaliation. She approached the Board, asking if she, as an individual and not as the Student Board representative, could have a time extension when addressing the Board Trustees at a public meeting, from the allowed three minutes, to ten minutes. She was denied and she openly talks about this as well.
Ghaly wanted the issue aired in public, in front of parents, teachers and fellow students, and not addressed behind closed doors with the Superintendent and Board Trustees. She was asking for complete transparency.
So, the question remains, why did the Bayonne Board of Education not begin an HIB investigation, as they are legally required to do in the State of New Jersey, within ten days of being informed of a given situation? That’s something not only Petra Ghaly, but every parent in the district, should want an answer to from their elected Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools.