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Berkshire Hills Regional School District’s independent investigation of ‘Gender Queer’ incident cost school district over $39,000 – updated with comments from School Committee Chairman Bannon and Superintendent Dillon

The school district's independent report over the incident was released in February.

Berkshire County — The Berkshire Hills Regional School District’s independent investigation of the incident involving eighth-grade ELA teacher Arantzazú Zuzene Galdós-Shapiro, and the Great Barrington Police Department over the book “Gender Queer” cost the school district a total of $39,033.90.

The committee approved an independent investigation at its meeting on January 11, and the investigation was conducted by Kevin Kinne from the Pittsfield law firm of Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook LLP.

The report was issued by the school district back in February.

On Thursday, May 23, Great Barrington resident John Breasted forwarded an email to local media from School District Administrative Secretary to the Superintendent Dorreen Twiss detailing the payments made to Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook LLP.

The first payment by the school district was made on February 29 of $19,212.40 for 61.80 hours of work, and a note is made next to the payment listing of a “courtesy discount”.

The second payment by the school district was made on March 15 of $19,821.50 for 51.30 hours of work.

At the annual Great Barrington town meeting held earlier this month, Town Manager Mark Pruhenski said that the town paid $5,400 for its independent report into the incident which was conducted by Comprehensive Investigations and Consulting LLC out of Quincy.

The results of the report were released to the public on April 29.

Meanwhile, the attorney for Galdós-Shapiro, Howard Cooper, a founding partner of Boston’s Todd & Weld LLP, announced on May 14 that Galdós-Shapiro will be suing the school district, Superintendent of Schools Peter Dillon, Police Chief Paul Storti, and investigating Police Officer Joseph O’Brien over the incident.

Update – Friday, May 24. The Berkshire Edge received the following email co-written by Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee Chairman Bannon and School District Superintendent Dillon:

“We are writing in response to the recent news item whose headline included that Berkshire Hills Regional School District had spent about $39,000 in its investigation of the Gender Queer incident that occurred last fall. Presumably this was considered newsworthy due to the dollar number involved.

Given the unprecedented public interest in what happened before, during and after the police search at Dubois Middle School on December 8th, 2023, the media attention drawn to the district because of it, to say nothing of our most important and pressing concern, which was to help to relieve the stress and strain it all caused for students and staff at the school, we felt that getting at the truth was of paramount importance.

The price we did pay in the end, though, was entirely in keeping with the cost of good legal counsel in 2024. It was money well-spent. We are grateful to Kevin Kinne of the local law firm Cohen, Kinne, Valicenti and Cook for his extraordinarily thorough investigation and resulting report. We believe the taxpayers of Berkshire Hills Regional School District, and all of BHRSD’s families, were well-served by them.”

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