The Mount Vernon Board of Education issued a press release criticizing what it referred to as “elements” within the community. The statement then goes on to praise student Zachary Dennis for “coming forward.”
The statement does not make clear what is meant by “attack.” Barring this as an allegation of assault, “attack” presumably refers to some form of verbal disagreement.
Even then, the lack of clarifying language leaves open the interpretation of what is meant by “attack” and, by extension, who belongs to the group the school board calls the “elements.”
Considering that the statement presents just two sides, the “elements” and the Dennises, readers of the statement could come away thinking that the criticism of the “elements” is a reference to all of the people who have disagreed with the Dennises.
Many of Zachary Dennis’s fellow classmates disagreed with Dennis’s testimony. Are those students to be considered part of the “elements” or are they to be praised for “coming forward”?
If the school board did not intend to offend the majority of the community then it should have included clarifying language.
An example of using clarifying language would be the statement that is at the top of the comments portion of every page on AccountabilityInTheMedia.com: “Comments from all ideological viewpoints are welcome. However, please avoid abusive language and ad hominem attacks.”
(See here for a copy of the press release. PDF 48 KB)
(The community used signs in 2008 to express opinions about the school controversy.)
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