IRASBURG — A Republican senator will be reaching out to a Vermont middle school teacher to “make amends” for a social media post about the teacher asking his students to give their pronouns that included his email address, the Democratic president of the state Senate said Tuesday.
Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint said in a Tuesday statement that state Sen. Russ Ingalls didn’t violate any of the Senate’s written rules in reposting a constituent’s message that included the email, but he violated the chamber’s “general principles of decency and professionalism.”
Ballint said that by sharing a constituent’s email, it appeared that Ingalls was using his elected position to target a constituent. She said Ingalls expressed “regret and remorse” and that he would be “reaching out directly to make amends to the teacher for his poor judgement.”
“No constituent or private citizen should ever feel targeted by us through our actions or words,” Ballint said. “Our words and actions matter.”
Ingalls, R-Essex-Orleans, didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to a message requesting comment.
The message originally reposted last week by Ingalls noted that eighth grade teacher Sam Carbonetti had asked the students in his humanities class at the Irasburg Village School to introduce themselves by answering a number of questions, including their preferred name, pronouns and hobbies of interest.
The original message from the parent of a boy in the class said the question made his son feel uncomfortable.
In a Sunday social media post, Carbonetti said “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 said in the post.
Carbonetti did not immediately return a message Tuesday.
When contacted by MyChamplainValley.com, Carbonetti referred questions to Penny Chamberlin, the superintendent of the Orleans Center Supervisory Union.
“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.”
In a prepared statement, Balint, D-Windham, said the incident shows a need for more training and education “for our citizen legislators about what is an appropriate way to conduct ourselves in all arenas of our jobs: in public, over email, over Zoom, and on social media.”
The role of lawmakers has changed in the past several years, she said, and so has the dynamic of interaction with constituents.
“We also need to reexamine and update our Senate Rules to reflect the digital world in which we all do our jobs in 2021,” Balint said. “We must continue to balance tradition with recognition of how the work world is changing and we must create protocol and policies that work for this new world. Our rules must keep us accountable for our behavior.”