The Bully System

The ‘Curious Case of Mr. Kirksey’ has taken an unexpected, yet ugly turn in what is becoming an all-too-familiar pattern in Camden County. The use of the Camdenton Police Department to squash support for the suspended middle school principal comes after questions surfaced about Mr. Kirksey’s suspension by school administration for alleged MAPP testing irregularities. Behavior as demonstrated by the CPD on Saturday afternoon was irresponsible, reckless and unconscionable. The fact that, along with bullying a concerned mother, CPD seem to have ignored a real threat to public safety, is inexcusable.

On Saturday afternoon, the level of determination shown by those who would prefer the case of Mr. Kirksey remain quiet, was clearly demonstrated. In the parking lot of Gerbes grocery store, a Camdenton fixture, tyranny met the soccer mom.

The ‘buddy system’ is one thing we all remember from school field trips. Everyone had a partner and each kid was responsible for his buddy. It is one of the lessons in life that sticks and is repeated in Sunday School, although there the language is slightly different. The buddy system, after all, has its roots in ‘love thy neighbor’.

In the Camdenton School District, and Camden County at large, a different system is in use. It is the bully system and is the means with which local politicians and officials, along with local media, seek to silence those who would oppose them. It is a system rife with moral corruption and tyrannical behavior, endorsed by manufactured propaganda. The levers of this system have fingerprints that have been well documented in other areas of local government on American Spring. They are a rogue’s gallery of the connected and powerful in the Lake of the Ozarks communities.

In the curious case of Mr. Kirksey, it is not yet known whose hands are on the lever. What is clear, is that they are determined to keep Mr. Kirksey’s suspension quiet. Mr. Kirksey wants HIS hearing open to the public, to clear his name, as is his right. The school board and administration appear determined to keep it closed. They have sought to keep conversation about the Kirksey situation to a minimum. Those conspiring to keep Mr. Kirksey’s case hidden from public view would like to silence all debate regarding the principal’s suspension. It appears as though they are also determined to squash any support for the Camdenton Middle School Principal, by any means necessary.

Ms. Mindi Sales, founder of the Facebook page ‘Mr. Sean Kirksey for Camdenton Middle School Principal’, has been a leader in a rapidly growing community movement in support of Mr. Kirksey. Her research has led to questions about the investigation process that led to Mr. Kirksey’s suspension by the Camdenton School District Superintendent Tim Hadfield. It also raises serious questions regarding Mr. Kirksey’s responsibility and role in reported MAPP testing irregularities.

The fact that DESE, Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, found the ‘irregularities’ and ‘breaches of security’ to be minor matters that will not affect the district’s accreditation in any way raises an additional point: If the allegations against Mr. Kirksey aren’t important to DESE, why would the administration and the board consider firing a Camdenton graduate who is also a well-loved, well-respected educator? Why are they so resistant to allowing the public to comment on Mr. Kirksey’s situation?

Why would the Camdenton Police Department get involved?

Mindi Sales, in describing why she began her Facebook page, said: “I just started a little Facebook page to get out the truth. Just me, no agenda, except the truth.”

The truth in Camden County is getting harder and harder to find. Recent investigations into the local Gatehouse Media property, the Lake Sun, has revealed a willful attempt to manipulate facts in order to effect school board election results. They have shown an equal willingness to ignore wrongdoing by county officials, presumably in the name of profits and ‘business as usual’. The paper’s smear campaign against three board members, and subsequent coverage of Mr. Kirksey’s situation has cost the Gatehouse outlet precious credibility. Their willingness to function as a public relations publication and eagerness to manufacture stories to increase web traffic and ad sales has been reminiscent of tabloid practices. Recent coverage of the allegations against Mr. Kirksey have led some in the community to question their presentation of the investigation and suspension.

This lack of credibility and trust in local media led, in part, to Mindi’s investigation the matter of Mr. Kirksey and DESE testing rules. It was also driven by her knowledge of Mr. Kirksey’s effect on her thirteen year old daughter and the affection she has for him.

This led Mindi toward her run-in with Camdenton’s version of police state tactics and the bully system that has exerted its will on the citizens of Camden County far too long.

Mindi had posted on Friday, that she would be in the Gerbes parking lot the next day from 3-4 PM giving away free T-shirts to anyone who wanted them in support of Mr. Kirksey. She paid for the shirts herself and while she would accept donations, she had no plans to sell the T-shirts whatsoever. Her post to announce the event made that point exceptionally clear. When Mindi pulled into the Gerbes parking lot, the police presence made it quite clear she was not welcome.

” …I showed up at 2:45 in the Gerbes parking lot with my 13-year-old daughter. Her first comment was “My, there are a lot of police out today Mom.” So as I sat eating my lunch, one of the TWO police cruisers circled my truck and asked me if I was the lady selling tshirts in support of Mr. Kirksey. I said “NO, I am handing out free tshirts.” He then said “Well you can’t. The Gerbes Manager wants you off the property now because there can be no protesting on this lot.” I said “I am not protesting, I am handing out something for free.” And he said “It doesn’t matter. They want you gone and you need to leave NOW.” ”

Officer Wynne Stephens, who also serves as a Camdenton School District safety officer, was the member of the CPD who told Mindi to leave.

Gerbes management has a recollection of events that differs from the assertion delivered to Ms. Sales by Officer Stephens. According to manager Gary Mitchell, Gerbes did not set out to have Ms. Sales bullied out of their parking lot. In response to questions from concerned citizens, Mr. Mitchell described a number of anonymous threats that were called into the grocery store.

According to Mr. Mitchell, the store received 8-12 calls that began by asking if Gerbes supported Mr. Kirksey and demanding they not allow Ms. Sales to distribute her T-shirts in the grocery store’s parking lot. The calls became increasingly threatening in nature and warned that Gerbes should call the police. According to Gerbes management, they had no objection to Ms. Sales handing out shirts in their parking lot and they repeatedly informed the callers of this. Near the end of these calls, a male caller began issuing threats. The male caller claimed that if the store allowed Ms. Sales to give away her T-shirts, he would create problems for Ms. Sales, Gerbes and their customers. The caller went on to suggest that management call the police in order to run Ms. Sales off.

As the calls persisted, Gerbes did call the police, concerned about public safety.

CPD arrived on the scene and were fully briefed on the nature of the telephone calls, according to Mr. Mitchell.

According to management, one police car showed up and spoke with the manager on duty. The officers conducted a cursory sweep of the area. Seeing nothing of apparent interest, the officers left the parking lot.

Then, Gerbes claims, the male caller called again. The caller, then said that they needed to get the police back here and that one car wasn’t enough, he should call for more. It was apparent, in the view of store management, that the caller was in a position to see the parking lot at that point. The store was fearful for the safety and well-being of both Ms. Sales and their customers.

On its surface, it would appear that the CPD’s behavior is more than a little suspect. An individual calling and making threats of the nature described by Gerbes management should be the target of an immediate attempt to apprehend. The threats of the kind made by the caller led Gerbes to call the CPD, after all. All of this would not only call Officer Stephens’ reported actions into question, it would also call into question why this immediate threat to the community wouldn’t warrant a worthy response. Did a dispatcher not pass this along to CCSD or the Highway Patrol? Shouldn’t there have been a serious search for this individual, particularly when store management thought he was in this parking lot? Wouldn’t it warrant an alert of some sort? A bat-signal, maybe?

None of these things occurred.

In fact, after gruffly sending Ms. Sales on her way, she was followed by at least one of the anonymous callers to her next destination, who then repeated making threatening phone calls.

This calls into question the actions of the CPD in this case. By what authority did they approach Ms. Sales and her children? How can such behavior possibly be in the public’s best interest? Why wouldn’t you go after the guy making the threats? How on earth could you allow a potentially dangerous individual follow his intended target to a second location?

What DID occur, was that Mindi got thrown out of the Gerbes parking lot. She and her kids paid part of the growing cost for telling the truth in Camden County. They were introduced to the bully system.

More disturbing are the lengths the anonymous caller went to in order to continue to threaten and harass Mindi Sales and supporters of Sean Kirksey. Farris’ Market verified that they also received anonymous calls and threats after Ms. Sales arrived to distribute her T-shirts in the aftermath of her experience at Gerbes. Farris’ Market was more than willing to host Ms. Sales when she called them and explained what had happened. At this point, it became clear Ms. Sales and her children were followed.

This can best be described as ‘disturbing’.

The actions of local law enforcement could be called questionable in the best case, negligent in the worst.

For Mindi, the experience has not diminished her resolve. Quite the opposite. Though she intends to file a police report about the threats that were leveled against her and will be demanding answers about the police’s course of action.

” For me, it made me realize how much power some people think they have, and how much power we have given them without any consequences for being bullies. I am just a chic and a mom, sitting at my kitchen desk, writing about the truth, and I have the police called on me. IS THIS WHAT WE WANT????? IS THIS HOW WE ENVISION OUR SCHOOL???
Here is my point….What about the staff who speaks out? NOW do we see WHY they don’t want to say what is on their mind? I think they thought they were going to scare me…but the opposite is true. They just empowered me more.
Let me say I have NO idea who called Gerbes with the info that I was going to be there. It wasn’t a secret. In my opinion, I find it very underhanded to call the police and try to intimidate me. ”

Support for Mr. Kirksey has continued to swell as more and more members of the community become aware of his situation. Mindi had a large turn-out for her first T-shirt giveaway and has more planned throughout the week. Farris’ Market is happy to host Mindi as she gives away shirts in support of Mr. Kirksey. It is with thoughts for him and his family, that Mindi ended her account of the events in the Gerbes parking lot.

” Please keep the Kirkseys in your thoughts and prayers as these next 11 days start to unfold. This is hard, but Mr. Kirksey is glad to FINALLY have the right to tell about what has happened. ”

We all have the right to hear it. It is amazing the lengths those who don’t want us to hear it will go to.

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