Vermont’s Senate President Pro Tem believes a Northeast Kingdom senator violated “general principles of decency and professionalism” through a social media post “targeting” an Irasburg Village School teacher.
Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham, released a statement Tuesday concerning a post shared by Sen. Russ Ingalls, R-Essex-Orleans, that took issue with an Irasburg teacher’s classroom question about identifying pronouns and included the teacher’s email address.
“I’ve spoken with Senator Ingalls, and he understands that by sharing a private citizen’s email in the manner that he did, it appears that he was using his elected position to target a constituent,” stated Balint.
Ingalls shared a post late last week created by a parent of an Irasburg Village School student. In the post, the parent wrote “My son was pressured to share his pronouns and so were the all [sic] other individuals in his 8th grade class.” The message continues and encourages people with “any concerns” to email the teacher. The teacher’s school email address was included.
Balint stated that for Ingalls to share the post with the email address he was encouraging push-back from the public against the teacher.
“No constituent or private citizen should ever feel targeted by us through our actions or words,” she wrote.
Messages were left for Ingalls, giving him a chance to comment on the incident. No reply came by press time.
The teacher referenced is Sam Carbonetti. He is a humanities educator for middle schoolers at Irasburg Village School.
On Sunday, Carbonetti said on social media that “anti-equity folks” were calling for his job.
“I got doxxed by a VT State Senator for giving my students the OPTION to introduce themselves to me and the class (with) their preferred name, pronouns, favorite subject and hobbies,” Carbonetti wrote.
“Doxxing” is when someone publishes private or identifying information about another person on the Internet, often with malicious intent.
A message left at the school for Carbonetti to return a phone call for comment yielded no response. Supt. Penny Chamerlin also did not respond.
“I am not interested in keeping this thread going with media,” Chamberlin said. “We are focused on opening our schools safely and are currently dealing with contact tracing. I need to put my energy this week into safety for our students and schools.”
Balint said she spent 48 hours gathering information about the incident and spent some of that time checking to see if Ingalls violated any official Senate Rules. She determined he had not, but said there was a violation.
“Although Ingalls has not violated any of our written rules, it is clear that he violated our general principles of decency and professionalism by his conduct on social media,” she said in her release.
Ingalls, of Newport, is a former resident of Irasburg. He is serving in his first term as a senator. The other senator in the Essex-Orleans district is veteran lawmaker Bobby Starr.
Balint said the incident with Ingalls highlights the need for more training and education of lawmakers to help them learn “what is an appropriate way to conduct ourselves in all arenas of our jobs: in public, over email, over Zoom, and on social media.”
She also said the Senate Ethics Panel may need to expand its purview to issues of discrimination and professional conduct.
“As our policy now stands, it is unclear where a matter like this should be heard and addressed,” she said. “This must be rectified.”
NEK legislator Sen. Joe Benning, of Lyndon, serves as chair of the Senate Ethics Committee. He did not respond by press time to a request for comment on whether he felt Ingalls’ action crossed an ethical line.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.