Virginia Beach teacher blasts school board member during meeting

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A teacher blasted school board member Laura Hughes during Tuesday night's meeting over Hughes' response to a lesson the teacher used in class earlier this month.

Melissa Disher

Melissa Disher, a teacher at First Colonial High School, spoke during the public comment period during the meeting. "Mrs. Hughes, you should not admonish myself or my colleagues regarding a lesson you knew nothing about," she said.

It all started on November 15 when Disher was teaching in the Legal Study Academy by using a panel discussion with community members to address issues in the city. Students submitted questions and the teachers asked them to panelists in order teach the students how ask effective questions.

Hughes says she was invited by a student to observe the panel and was acting as a private citizen, not a school board member. Hughes felt like the lesson would've been more effective if the students were the ones asking the questions, but didn't ask Disher about it until she saw her at the church they both attend the following Sunday.

Hughes says she saw Disher at Church of the Holy Family, but wasn't completely sure it was her. She asked Disher if she's a teacher at First Colonial and then says Disher asked her what she thought of the lesson. "I said, 'I thought it was interesting, but I was just a little disappointed that I didn't get to see the children ask questions,'" Hughes said she replied.

"She expressed strong disapproval," Disher said of Hughes' questioning.

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Hughes says she was only asking questions. "People ask questions all the time and it's not an indictment of someone's abilities or methods of anything," she said in an interview Wednesday.

Disher feels like Hughes crossed a line by asking her the questions at church. "Mrs. Hughes, you are not allowed to use my children for your agenda. That is not why they come to school each day. As long as I am their teacher, I will not allow you to use them as your pawn in whatever game you're playing," Disher said.

Hughes says her questions were only part of a private conversation, not an agenda. "I would ask people to listen to what her tone was and what my tone typically is and form your own opinions about how we spoke to each other," Hughes said.

The Virginia Beach Education Association applauded Disher's speech. "The school board should ensure due process takes place and that a remedy is available to the teacher.  Her complaint is serious and deserves a process to protect the employee and restrict the elected official from such actions in the future," VBEA President Kelly Walker said in a statement. Walker didn't answer when asked if VBEA represents Disher.

Hughes, who is a member of the Virginia Beach Teacher Association, says she plans to move on from the incident. "I would never initiate a conversation with [Disher]. If she chooses to talk to me, I'll be polite."

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