Advertisement

Vaillancourt believes impeachment charge in play

Cindy Vaillancourt's question toward high school students over a possible age requirement to purchase condoms has already led to a sexual harassment investigation by the school system and a resolution from her Board of Education colleagues stating their disappointment.

But one week after the details of the investigation were released and the resolution approved, Vaillancourt believes she'll soon need to defend herself against an attempt to toss her off the Howard County Board of Education.

Advertisement

On Monday, Vaillancourt stressed her belief that if the upcoming election does not change the existing Board of Education majority, she will be facing impeachment.

"I'm not guessing on that. I have no doubt that's their plan," Vaillancourt said of a possible impeachment proceeding.

Vaillancourt is one of eight candidates seeking four open seats on the board in the Nov. 4 general election.

Ellen Flynn Giles, board chairwoman, denied that the Board of Education is planning an attempt to remove Vaillancourt from the board through impeachment.

"I can tell you that no one on the board has proposed that," Giles said Tuesday.

Since the resolution was approved last week, Giles said the board has yet to hear if Vaillancourt will follow their suggestion to undergo "counseling and training to guide her future contacts" with students.

"The ball, as I see it, is in Ms. Vaillancourt's court," she said.

If an impeachment attempt were to happen, it would be the second time in three years that the Board of Education has asked the state to remove one of its own from office. In 2011, the school board voted to have the state Board of Education remove Allen Dyer from the board.

Complaint filed

The controversy surrounding Vaillancourt's comments stems from a conversation on June 12, when, according to a complaint filed, Vaillancourt said to a group of adults and high school students on school property: "Did you know that you have to be 18 to buy condoms?"

Vaillancourt has said that she asked the question after hearing that a local Giant Food Store had carded someone who was purchasing condoms.

On July 11, one of the students present and the student's parents filed a sexual harassment complaint against Vaillancourt, according to a copy obtained by The Baltimore Sun Media Group through a Public Information Act request.

The complaint states that the student believed the comment to be "sexually explicit, unwarranted language."

In a letter to Howard County Schools Superintendent Renee Foose and Board of Education members, the student's parents wrote: "We are shocked and disturbed by Mrs. Vaillancourt's behavior, especially because she is a member of the Board of Education. We are therefore asking for an apology from Mrs. Vaillancourt to [student's name] and the assurance that another student will not have to experience the discomfort that our son had to undergo."

Advertisement

After an investigation through the Office of Equity Assurance, Rebecca Salerno, manager of that office, found that Vaillancourt had violated the board's sexual harassment policy by "making a sexually offensive comment to a male student that was unwelcomed and inappropriate."

Vaillancourt was notified of Salerno's findings Aug. 12 and was encouraged to seek sensitivity training through the school system's Employee Assistance Program.

Vaillancourt has not sought training and on Sept. 23, the Howard County Board of Education approved a resolution that stated its disappointment and displeasure with Vaillancourt's conduct. Board members also stated in the resolution that they expect Vaillancourt to seek counseling and training to guide future contact with students.

Vaillancourt said she plans to "fully and vigorously" defend herself in this matter, adding that she would be meeting with legal counsel Wednesday to discuss her options.

In a letter to Salerno, Vaillancourt's attorney, Thomas Morrow, wrote that the characterization of Vaillancourt's comment as a violation of the sexual harassment policy is "arbitrary, capricious and contrary to common sense."

The board of education voted 6-0-1 to approve the resolution. Vaillancourt abstained and Sandie French recused herself from the discussion and vote.

French said she recused herself after learning of "rumblings" via email and social media that she was behind the resolution to improve her election chances. In the June primary, French finished second to Vaillancourt with 14,528 votes. Vaillancourt received 15,646 votes.

"I felt it was better to remain neutral," French said.

The vote represented the second time in five months the Board of Education has approved a resolution that "expresses its displeasure" with Vaillancourt. In May, the board approved a resolution that accused Vaillancourt of twice breaching the confidentiality of closed sessions within the past year. At the time, Vaillancourt called the resolution "dirty politics," but after her success in the primary, she said she believed the resolution aided her campaign.

According to Vaillancourt, she voiced her concerns regarding the issue of carding young men and women for condoms while with a group that included adults and students. She said that she did not direct her comments to the students, but to the group as a whole.

Vaillancourt said she and Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer, later contacted Giant and have been assured that this is no longer happening.

Rossman, last week, confirmed that her department reached out to a Giant store manager and was told it is not store policy to ask for identification when someone purchases condoms since there is no law requiring someone to be older than the age of 18 to purchase condoms.

While Vaillancourt does not believe her statements made in front of students were offensive, student Board of Education member Patrick Mikulis said before the Sept. 23 vote: "What it comes down to is accountability. Whether the remark was made, whether or not that it was perceived as offensive, as we found with the recent Glenelg High School Confederate flag incident, things that you may not think are offensive can be found offensive."

The school system's complete sexual harassment policy can be viewed online at hcpss.org/f/board/policies/1020.pdf.

Advertisement
Advertisement