Town Councilwoman Cindy Penkoff, of District 2, released a statement to The Times Friday afternoon regarding allegations made by former Trumbull High School substitute teacher Joe Rodgers earlier this week.
Rodgers, who was let go by Trumbull Public Schools on Aug. 30, claimed that Penkoff used her political position to get him dismissed after 13 years of teaching after he had messaged her about an inappropriate post on her son’s Facebook page.
Penkoff,who also sent in images of her “original, first and only conversation” with Rodgers in her release, told The Times she had never heard of Rodgers until he contacted her.
“In the last few days I had to take a deeper breath every morning and take a big step back to try to understand what is happening around me. To ask myself why adults, many with children, those who claim integrity, responsibility and honesty would blindly engage publicly on social media on a matter they know nothing about involving a minor child. Why would parents share the word of a substitute teacher who decided to go to social media with information about a minor? Does that not in itself raise red flags? Should a teacher take it upon himself to discuss his perspective, his opinion, of a minor child on social media?
“Trying to understand the students was much easier for me. They are young people who lost a ‘liked’ substitute, and want to simply get him back. They are learning, and one of the things they are learning to do is stand up for what they believe in. That is commendable. However, with standing up for what one believes in, comes an even more necessary lesson, which is to stand with facts…
“A substitute teacher, someone I had never met or heard of, contacted me to express concerns over a posting of my son’s, three days after commenting on my sons post directly and receiving no response from him. Although the degree of his message to me was inappropriate, I reviewed the information he provided and responded letting him know his concerns about my son were baseless. He then proceeded to condemn me for my own page and political views, was offensive and warned of further actions. Having never spoken to this person before, I knew nothing about him.
“The one thing I did know, was that my family and I felt targeted, not because he wanted to inform me of a concern, but because of the tone and degree of his message. I did the only reasonable thing and contacted the BOE and the police, as any parent in this situation should.
“After 6 weeks of being fearful and looking over my shoulder, school started. With no further communication I was sure it was over, until this substitute went on social media again last week, again posting his perspective about my minor son, naming me publicly and making false accusations against both of us, which seem to grown in severity by the day. This is wrong. My son is a wonderful boy who has never been in trouble a day in his life. His political views may be different than this teachers, but did not warrant the reaction and the broadcasting publicly of his unfounded accusations.
“My son has now been threatened, mischaracterized and publicly ridiculed. Is this proper behavior for a teacher, or a man who claims to care about children?
“It is beyond me how people continue to comment and support a teacher who would share this information about a minor on social media. It is beyond me how people would think that my rights as a parent are any less valid than theirs simply because of who I am. It is beyond me how a single persons words can be taken as gospel by some, simply because he was a teacher and I chose to keep a private matter private. This man was out of line.
“I have no control of the hiring or firing of any teacher or substitute and have no influence on such decisions either. My family and I have suffered through this ordeal and I have tried to let it pass for all our sakes, but now must respond.
“What’s not simple on the other hand is trying to understand how parents could prejudge this situation because of a single perspective without sitting back and asking themselves: Is this even appropriate? Would you be ok with this if it was your child? If this child was a danger, would he be in school? If the FBI was called, why have they not investigated? If this was so urgent why not call the authorities? If, if, if, if, if.
“I volunteer my time every day for this town and for the people in it. Whether we agree or not on issues, I take my role in this town very seriously! But I am a mother first! As a Mother I have the same right every other parent has to inform my schools and police when there is something to be concerned about.”
“With the continued discussions, I am grateful to so many for the support and wisdom and I am equally shocked by others for the vulgarity and degree of how low some will stoop.
“The name calling and labels used to describe my family are disgusting; all based on a conjured up story. The attempt by some to use this situation as a ‘call to arms’ on Nov. 3; those that preach tolerance, compassion, fairness and most of all truth. You should be ashamed. This is a family and a minor child.
“That is why, I have decided to share the one and only exchange between the man in question and myself. Something he keeps claiming to have but unlike the rest of his words, has chosen not to share.”