By Sterling McGinn

School was dismissed just a few hours after it began on Thursday, December 14, after one or more students destroyed a pipe in the boys bathroom in the school lobby. Water flooded the lobby area, moving into the cafeteria and down the hallway toward the high school. School officials ended the school day before lunch could be served.

The Luce County Sheriff Department is investigating the incident, and will provide a report to new Luce County Prosecutor Cameron Harwell.

Undersheriff Mike Peters expects charges will be filed against the student(s). Further details are not available at this time.

School was back in session the next day, but the incident underscored concerns about student behavior at the school. Approximately 20 members of the public, including parents, grandparents, and students attended Monday’s meeting of the Tahquamenon Area School’s (TAS) Board of Education, where the board heard comments and concerns regarding recent vandalism and behavioral issues disrupting classrooms within the district.

At the meeting, the board accepted the resignation of high school science teacher Carly Dubay, who submitted a letter explaining that her decision was the result of poor student behavior and lack of enforcement by administration. Her resignation is effective January 1, 2024.

Dubay’s resignation letter was not publicly shared, but was given to The Newberry News.

“The lack of respect that students have for their school, peers, and me is horrid,” wrote Dubay, a 2015 graduate of Newberry High School. “I take on daily verbal abuse from students. Students run around like they own the school, and from my standpoint, they absolutely do. … Our students yell profanities and racial slurs, such as the N word, yet we allow it. Students drink alcohol, vape, and smoke weed not only during the day, but in our buildings. Members of staff see students with vapes and even take them away with no consequences.”

Dubay said the school has “amazing teachers” that “never get the opportunity to even teach their content because they are constantly battling behaviors in the classroom.”

Colleen Duflo, a fellow TAS parent and alumnus, who has volunteered for the school for eight years, shared her concern.

“Our culture has really shifted here, and it is to a point where I feel that our students seem to be running the school, and I feel that the staff feel pretty defeated and worse yet, so do many students who care about their education,” she said.

Duflo and a group of others have been cleaning up at the school after events.

“Just the last game, Coach Sarah Johnson and I helped the janitor clean up a mess—some younger kids allegedly made the mess, and it was all the way from the bleachers to the main doors and the central office.”

Newberry High School junior Sophia Johnson, daughter of Coach Johnson, shared her concerns with the board.

“I have always been very happy to say that I went to school here, but as I got older, I hesitate a little bit, because every day I come here it’s the same thing over and over again,” Sophia Johnson said. “I want to talk to you about the disruptions I see every day in class…I care about my education very deeply,” she said.

“I know of two families with three kids apiece who are ready to leave,” Scott Duflo told the board.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but I think removing some of these kids from this environment is a start. I feel bad about it, but I think it is necessary. A lot of good kids aren’t getting what they deserve.”

Board trustee Veronica Edwards shared a letter from Wendy Sanders, who could not attend the meeting.

“I would like to address the board…we elected you to oversee the operations of TAS,” Sanders wrote. “Your duties are to make sure the school is running properly and holding administrators accountable. Right now, the school is one big dumpster fire, and you are just watching it burn. As taxpayers, we expect better from you.”

“Things have really changed here,” said Barb Bennett. “Through the years, things have got progressively worse to the point that there are things in this school that I am absolutely ashamed of.”

Bennett said that the men’s bathroom in the lobby has no handles on the faucets and is in bad condition.

“I applaud the people who work here in this school, they are a wonderful bunch of people, but your environment is important, whether you’re working here, whether you’re a student here, whether you’re a visitor here…this place is in shambles,” Bennett said. “You have a community who cares. We want to be part of the solution—not part of the problem…allow the people in the community to help you.”

Finally, the board convened in closed session for student discipline. After reconvening in open session, the board voted to suspend a student for 45 days. The student is not permitted at school activities or on the premises during that time. Due to student privacy regulations, it is unknown if the suspended student is the culprit behind the December 14 flooding incident.