It has been truly grim to read recent emails I have received concerning the Saratoga Springs School Board election that show little concern for accuracy and even less concern for engaging with people with whom the senders disagree.
An example was the recent email blast that Betty Gallagher sent out to a very large list. I have always admired Betty as a sober and thoughtful person who I would have expected to be meticulous regarding the truth and accuracy of anything that went out over her name. She has been a stalwart soldier in the League of Women Voters for many years. It is indeed a very bad sign of our times that Betty would propagate a rumor that some sort of conspiracy is afoot involving the NRA and the coming School Board elections.
This was her original email:
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2019 12:22:33 PM
Subject: School Board Election, May 21
Dear Friends – The answer to gun violence in our society is NOT more guns. I will be voting for John Brueggermann, Heather Reynolds and Natalya Lakhtakia on May 21. The NRA is very active in exerting influence in our School Board election. Don’t let them steal it!
Please remember to vote at this important election!
What follows is our exchange:
John To Betty:
What is the basis of your claim that the NRA is somehow involved in the school board elections?
Betty To John:
Web Notes – How the NRA Exerts Influence Beyond Political Contributions
John and Jane – I think it is fairly well accepted that the NRA exerts influence at federal, state and local elections in order to favor gun ownership. This is accomplished through its membership – and at times financially. Do you believe that the NRA has not noticed our election, or that its members are not taking its advice?
I have tried to copy one of my references but am not very good at this. Hope it comes out for you.
John To Betty:
In reading your email it appears that you have no data that documents the involvement of the NRA in the Saratoga Springs School Board election.
The NRA is not known for stealth campaigns. In fact they generate donations by highlighting their war on behalf of gun owners. Their PAC directly contributes to candidates and the PAC also contacts their members urging them to support whatever candidate or cause they are involved in. If history is any indication, if they were involved in this election they would do so loudly and publicly.
As you may know, I am active in shooting sports. I am not a member of the NRA but during this campaign I have talked to people I know who are in the NRA. Most of them actually knew nothing about this election.
In your email you asserted:
“The NRA is very active in exerting influence in our School Board election. Don’t let them steal it!”
In hindsight don’t you think that this statement lacks the care for moderation and accuracy that has traditionally been reflected in your comments on public issues?
Betty To John:
John – The NRA sways elections through the actions of its devout paid membership. Pro-gun. This is undeniable.
So with respect to Betty, yes, the NRA does involve itself in elections but no, it is not undeniable that they are operating behind the scenes in our local election. What happened to the importance of having some kind of proof when making allegations? Betty has no copies of emails from the NRA to its members, and there is no record of the NRA making any contribution to Saratoga Parents For Safer Schools (SPSS) or any of the candidates. As I noted in my email to her, I have spoken to people who are proud members of the NRA and most of them knew nothing at all about the school board elections including who was running. The few who told me they knew something about the election learned about it in the newspaper or TV. Am I to believe that the friends I shoot with, who are never reluctant to share their right wing views with me, are suddenly trying to keep this great NRA conspiracy Betty thinks exists a secret?
In reading the thread of emails it was apparent that her rumor had found fertile ground. The fact that she and the others participating in this email thread would uncritically spread this rumor is very disturbing.
Betty’s email blast resulted in a cascade of emails from her very extensive list in which the authors approved each other’s choice of candidates and congratulated each other on their wisdom in making these choices. Some like the following took the NRA conspiracy myth even further:
“i agree with you totally, betty. it is definitely my intention to vote for these 3 people. my other concern re the nra is that once they get their foot in our doors, it will be very difficult to get it out. it’s not just this election but the meetings and issues to follow never mind future elections. i hate to be such a down dora, but i don’t trust either them or their adherents at all.”
The exception in these email exchanges was a message sent by Kara Rossetti, the founder of Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, the group that was formed in support of rearming the school monitors. Ms. Rossetti sent a thoughtful and measured email (see below) in which she refuted the NRA allegation and went on to explain why she supported re-arming the monitors.
This had no impact on the continuing cascade of emails. No one addressed her points. Instead the writers continued to perpetuate the NRA myth as did this writer:
“Betty, You go girl. We’re right there with you on those 3 candidates. You’re probably right on the NRA, we have said that from the start. Please circulate this widely.”
Rather than speaking to Kara’s denial of NRA involvement, Laura Chodos responded to Kara by cavalierly dismissing the importance of whether or not the NRA was involved. Ms. Chodus seemed utterly disinterested in whether this email thread was amplifying disinformation about the election or in even acknowledging any of the other information Kara offered.
The narrative of these emails is driven by the clear sentiment that by opposing rearming the monitors one is taking a stand against gun violence and somehow standing up for gun control. It is apparent that those participating in this email exchange have adopted the myth, supported by no documentation, that the people who support re-arming the monitors are part of a right wing campaign that also opposes gun control. It explains their lack of interest in actually engaging in the issue of school safety as for them the opposition is dominated by right wingers who cannot be reasoned with.
There seems to also be a troubling underlying fear that our community is under attack and by electing a particular slate of candidates we can hold these forces back.
It will no doubt come as a shock then to the people on Betty’s email list that Kara Rossetti, who organized the Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, is a strong proponent of gun control. In fact, she told me that in the America she would like to live in, the only people allowed to have guns would be law enforcement officers.
I expect that the people participating in this self congratulating email event have no idea how hurtful it is for someone like Kara to be so gratuitously dismissed by Laura Chodos and to have the organization she founded be repeatedly the subject of unfounded accusations that they are agents of the NRA.
Kara is not alone in both being for gun control and, at the same time, for re-arming the monitors. None of Betty’s email list seem interested in actually finding out whether any of the candidates are even members of the NRA.
Kara Rossetti deserves enormous credit for her courage in advocating both thoughtfully and with considerable courage for what she believes is in the best interest of safety in the Saratoga schools. You may not agree with her approach, but she and Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools deserve to be heard for what they honestly have to say and not be subjected to false accusations.
On May 16, 2019, at 2:18 PM, Kara Rosettie <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the upcoming election. We are fortunate to live in a community where so many people care so much.
I wanted to take the opportunity to address a few things in your email as well as provide some historical facts regarding this issue. What many in the community do not realize is that the armed protection that was removed from our children this past year was a practice and protocol that had been in place without incident for the past 30 years. The effectiveness of this practice in Saratoga is starting to be mirrored by other districts in NY State and is the recommendation from the Federal Commission report for school safety as well as the Parkland School Commission Report after 17 lives were lost.
To further clarify, this is not an issue of gun control. It is an issue of safety. There has been much rhetoric regarding the “NRA” in regards to this upcoming election. It is simply false. At no time has the NRA been contacted, nor has there been NRA funding or involvement. This grass roots movement has taken flight with the support of local parents, grandparents, teachers and community members who believe in restoring proven and trusted safety and protection to our schools.
The driving force behind any attempt to rearm monitors is simple; response time. On average it takes 7.7 minutes for law enforcement to respond to Saratoga City Schools, longer for schools on the outskirts like Greenfield. The majority of school shootings are over within 4-8 minutes.
Seconds save lives.
The only way to mitigate response time is to have law enforcement and armed monitors readily available.
While we believe every candidate is sincere in their efforts to keep our children safe, only Dean Kolligian, Ed Cubanski and Shaun Wiggins recognize that in order to do so we must work closely with local law enforcement and heed their recommendations. Chief John Catone, an expert brought in to address the BOE has repeatedly stated that our children are now “less safe”.
It is now time for our community to heed these words and bring safety measures back to our schools. Our teachers, administrators, staff and children deserve a safe and protected environment and it is our duty to elect those who will provide this.
Thank you again for your dedication to community.
Laura Chodus’ E-mail
Respectfully disagree with you, Kara.
NRA influence or not, the way to peace is not through arms.
The practice you reference was against the law. And NO OTHER district in our region arms their grounds monitors. None.
I have removed from this reply chain the 2
people who requested such.
17 thoughts on “Betty Gallagher’s False NRA Conspiracy Claims Go Viral (Corrected)”
No other school has armed security/retired police?
Tell that to
Gloversville – https://www.gesdk12.org/district-hires-safety-officer-to-strengthen-emergency-protocols/
Mohonasen – https://dailygazette.com/article/2018/10/29/mohonasen-school-board-arms-head-security-official
West Babylon – https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newsday.com/amp/long-island/education/west-babylon-schools-security-guards-parkland-1.27279656
Massapequa – https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newsday.com/amp/long-island/education/school-safety-security-1.20097315
And dozens of other schools in NYS that added SRO and/or armed security.
Only one school in the state reduced its security presence; Saratoga Springs.
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Disagreeing is one thing. Lying & spreading misinformation is another. Reading this was quite depressing, I expect so much better from our community and this group of individuals.
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I always find it interesting that people get “up in arms” regarding groups like the NRA supporting candidates in local elections (and around the country). I don’t know if this is true or not and frankly I don’t care. I don’t see that kind of outrage when the teachers unions support a candidate. That seems to fit in well when it supports a point of view that is being pushed. I don’t know where all the adults went in this country but I wish they would come back SOON! If candidates are slanting their stance on issues just because they are being supported by a certain group, then that’s on them. As an adult, I research candidates..locally…statewide and nationally. I do the work and then I vote. If that person doesn’t do a good job…then I vote the next time to get them out (hopefully). Where the support is coming from does nothing to sway my vote. It’s an unfortunate part of the system. I hope I am smarter than that. I does bother me though, that there is such a huge outcry about one support group and nothing about another just because one group is more accepted than another in the eyes of “intellectuals” that seem to know what is better for the rest of us. Bottom line is this, if a candidate meets your standards and supports your principles then vote for them and the hell with PACs.
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As the treasurer for the Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools group, I have seen every penny that has come in and every penny that has gone out. There has been ZERO dollars donated to this organization from the NRA. 98% of the donations have been from Saratoga Springs, Wilton and Greenfield. A few other donations came from the nearby areas of Waterford, Ballston Lake, Schenectady and Malta. I suspect those were probably family members that are related to students in the Saratoga Springs City School District.
To my knowledge, there has been no request for assistance from the NRA and no offers of assistance from the NRA. I’m not a member of the NRA and to be honest, I don’t know if any of the organizers of the SPFSS group are members of the NRA. In all of the conversations that I’ve been in, NRA membership was never discussed.
I’m not a spokesman for SPFSS but from my view, SPFSS does not see this or treat this as a gun rights/gun control issue. It’s a safety and security issue for our children while they are in school. Trained, proficient and armed security is just the backup plan to the other measures that are in place such as “See Something, Say Something” and mental health intervention.
Anyone who suggests or professes that the NRA is involved with SPFSS is lying…plain and simple.
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Bottom line is this…the NRA advocates for more armed school monitors. Saratoga Parents for Safer schools has implied it is not safe to have schools without armed school monitors (also NRA stance). They spent $9,000 on a campaign manager to create their propaganda who organized an AR-15 giveaway and supports NRA agenda:
Lastly, the only clear data about armed school monitors is frightening. Too many risks, our kids should not be forced to have people with guns in their place of learning:
Derek, thank you for your comment today.
In your comment you assert that the NRA and Saratoga Parents For Safer Schools both want to arm monitors. You included a link to a CBS story as proof. I went to the link and what I found was that the NRA has an extreme position which is to arm pretty much everyone in school with particular attention to teachers. With respect, I think what you have written confuses a very important distinction. I have spoken to the leadership of SPSS and the candidates that they support along with Connie Woytowich. None of these people, and I mean none, supports arming teachers or any one else employed by the schools with the exception the School Resource Officer and the monitors. In fact the SSPS has a very thoughtful analysis as to why they support arming the monitors which would involve additional training. I would encourage you to review the post on this site with the questionnaires they answered or to contact the candidates directly.
You express concern about the potential threat that having armed personnel at the schools. The story your comment links to reports on three incidents that involved the mishandling of guns by a teacher and by two law enforcement officers on school grounds. This is presented as though it is an argument against the Saratoga Parents For Safe Schools. I would draw your attention that there are currently two armed law enforcement officers stationed in the school district right now. All the candidates including those that oppose arming monitors support having the police officer and sheriff at the high school and middle school. So the issue is really not simply having armed personnel on campus.
I think you have raised some significant issues which all of us need to think about but I think that you need to take greater care in crafting your points.
As I read this I am beginning to see this entire “accusation” as an attempted distraction. If they can focus on the false NRA topic, we are not talking about the real deal. I’m glad that this organization is not aligned with the NRA yet even if they had been, while disappointed, I still want to look at what is best for our children and I believe that have properly trained, well staffed, armed security is what is best for them and for teachers (like me). Gosh, I hope we never have to find out if they are needed yet as Ed Cubanski (I’m pretty sure it was him) said, I hope I never have to use my homeowner’s insurance or my auto insurance yet I never let it lapse.
It is not surprising that people who continue to believe and circulate the false information about NRA involvement in this School Board election are also supporting John Brueggermann, Heather Reynolds and Natalya Lakhtakia, all of whom have had their own problems with the accuracy of their statements.
What is further disappointing, though, is the evidence of the further decline of the League of Women Voters. Betty Gallagher is a long time League activist, but her perpetuation of the false involvement by the NRA and some of the responses to her email bring to mind the hunt for Communists during the McCarthy era with all the fearful talk of “once they get their foot in the door” etc. What happened to days when the League used to monitor campaigns for accuracy??
But Betty’s behavior is not an isolated incident.
Some may remember Barbara Thomas, a League officer and then member of the Charter Commission recommending a city manager, advocating for a vote on their proposal to take place at a special election. Much to everyone’s amazement, she actually told the City Council that there would be a greater voter turnout for a special election held the day after Memorial Day than at a regular November general election. She was also silent as the commission she served on repeatedly violated the Open Meetings Law even though the League used to sponsor a Sunshine day (or week maybe?) highlighting this law and its importance.
Then there was the League’s refusal to offer the community a balanced forum presenting the pros and cons of the city manager proposal and the following year the utter absence on any forum at all that would have informed the public of the revisions to the current charter that were on the ballot last fall.
The League of Women Voters was once a respected voice in this community. They often provided the only opportunity Saratogians had to hear candidates speak and answer questions from the public. They used to monitors campaigns for fairness and accuracy. Now they seem to disregard the very lessons they tried to model and teach us for so many years: that the essence of democracy is that for voters to make wise decisions they need to have access to accurate information.
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Thank you Fact Checker. A much better response than mine. Absolutely to the point of the issue.
Perhaps, it is time that the once venerable LWV should move beyond Eleanor Roosevelt’s issues to embrace the larger culture that includes all voters who would benefit by their advocacy. Perhaps, they could start with their name, for example – The League of Informed (All) Voters … The Voter’s League?
It certainly was disheartening that a member two years ago sat on a commission that disenfranchised voters whose own city charter was not reviewed as charged. Furthermore, directly or indirectly (as claimed) the proponents accepted outside money to further their cause. That should have been clearly disputed at the time and at the very least, disavowed before the monies went into promotion. Neither was done, the latter only after it became transparent. Both those concerns are part of the LWV’s fundamental mission statement.
I’m always amazed by recent arrivals from Milton, Westchester or wherever, who after a few years feel that they have better ideas for how our city should be run. I think it has something to do with a sense of freedom that they lacked from whence they came and a lack of information to fully understand beyond the text book versions just what makes a good city run.
Clearly, I’m off topic. This upcoming school board election has many critics, rightfully so. Generally, I don’t like voting blocs or straight line voting, so this election is going to be challenging. Do we arm people wherever our loved ones congregate? What is the response time to the Victoria Pool? The athletic fields during school hours and afterwards for practices? Will our kids be safe a city summer camp? If we accept guns throughout our society, how can we be surprised by the carnage that results? I’m inclined to believe in one officer at schools at the beginning and the end of the day with stringent security rules against breaching the envelope with trained monitors experienced in handling alarms, but don’t we already have a version of that in place?
Jim Martinez, in answer to your question “do we arm people wherever our loves ones congregate”, YES.
We have armed personnel in banks which protect our money; armed concealed carry air Marshall’s on most of our airplanes; armed plains clothes security in our amusement parks (such as Disney/universal/etc); we have armed security at our concert venues and our sporting events. Yet our children are unprotected? They spend the majority of their time in buildings with “gun free zones” on the door, which in the case of Parkland and Newtown meant very little. This isn’t an issue of gun control or gun laws, as so many are mistaking it for. It is simply having armed security, protection and defense at the ready rather than wait 7.7 minutes or longer for the same armed enforcement to arrive. The 5 members of our school board who voted to end this practice have removed a level
Of security that is being increased at schools in NY state and across the country. They have done so without provision of data or research, but simply the notion that somehow Saratoga must be immune to the tragedies befalling other communities. It is time to protect our children at school with the same care we take protecting our banks, travelers, concert goers, athletic fans and leisure vacationers. Because every child, teacher and staff deserves a safe and protected learning environment.
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You make a good point, but I don’t recall seeing guards at local banks in years as portrayed in movies, where the retired security guard usually makes the wrong move in a robbery attempt resulting in his loss of life or injury. Our airport entries and boarding sally ports always have some visible signs of police protection that hasn’t reached the extent of the Stasi secret police or the Haifa airport. As for sky marshals, I’d like to think that they are there, but like the experienced pilots and crews, it takes only a faulty sensor to bring a plane down.
I’m not making light of these concerns that we do share, but I have to question if the inappropriate common sense reaction to safety should not be addressed by also rethinking the larger picture as well. I know, who has time for that, but I’ve watched in my lifetime, the gun owner, who for the most part have been hunters, antique collectors, enthusiasts and those who owned handguns for protection, yet never if ever went to a range or took a course seriously to operate that weapon – now becoming a national obsession. Today, the preponderance of gun owners who require automatic and assault weapons in their private arsenals let alone the ease at which some deviates are able to surreptitiously acquire guns that are used in crimes is the larger problem. Do we license guns? Insure them? Levy a heavy fine against those who sell guns or own unregistered guns? It is not about making money but a level of responsibility, much like owning a car.
Of course, schools should be safe and safer than they are. What about the envelope? Are the days of Norman Rockwell’s image of the teacher at the door letting all the kids enter with their apples gone to pictures on the wall? The answer is yes. Sally ports at prisons keep prisoners in and people from getting in out. Can we do a better job with security that doesn’t extend beyond one currently trained and proficient marshal per school who won’t be 7.7 minutes away, but less than 30 seconds from signaling the local police cruiser squadron. If someone with a gun is walking the corridors of our schools, I want them to be currently trained and certified and up to date on their proficiencies. I wouldn’t want that retired bank security guard put in the position of going to the action and having an accident.
Common sense is not a reliable indication of the truth, it only appears to be correct according to one’s personal experience – there’s not a whole lot of sound judgement in what is derived from experience not study. I believe our full field of entries into this Saratoga Springs School Board race has resulted in some aligning with ‘flash in the pan’ responses or hedging their chances to control the makeup of the Board. I’m not as impressed with group candidates as I am with individual potentials and experience. I would like to see our educators think outside the box and embrace the larger issue as well as those common sense fears of parents by making gains in the greater potential of security.
Like single use plastic bags, we won’t affect their use by pretending with ourselves that we’re making a dent into the increasing proliferation of that material in the world without industry finding new uses for old plastic. It must start at the top. Think big.
I agree with “Common Sense” that yes, there are many areas where people gather that are protected by armed guards. At a Yankee’s game yesterday, they had dogs sniffing people going by, and highly armed police all over the place. There are armed guards at many places where people congregate. And, “Common Sense” makes a good point that our children spend a large part of their time in schools and deserve to be protected to the best of our ability.
That said, I also agree with Jim that we need to be exploring the underlying issues that make our children vulnerable. We need to attend to mental health issues. We need to think outside the box.
This is not an either or issue. Exploring and managing those larger issues will take time. They will require a good deal of research and work to determine priorities in protections of our children and to lessen the risks. In the meantime, having well qualified, well trained armed officers will lessen the immediate risks. I haven’t heard anyone saying we should have the stereotype “retired security officer that Jim has identified.
This issue has become too much of an all or nothing – coping with mental health VS current armed security. It just isn’t that simple on either side. Let’s think big while dealing with the immediate concerns (not unfounded fears as may have been suggested).
Good post, Gayle.
Just an FYI:
It was reported that Sheriff Zurlo stated that some 19,000 or so, personal hand gun carry permits are on file with his office.
If this is true, that says that says some 10% of the population is registered as such.
We might have more active and retired law enforcement personnel — and conscientious , armed citizens among us.
And that does not include “gun owners” in the mix.
Read: Hunters, enthusiasts and SaraSpa Gun Club members.
Interesting data, eh?
You’re contributions are valued; many respect your voice on this contentious issue.
As Colin Powell once said; “May level heads prevail.”
I’m still struggling with people I generally think of as intelligent continue to believe and put out this NRA BS. I, just a bit ago, got a facebook PM telling me to vote and who to vote for. When I said I planned to vote yet not for those she was supporting she asked why. When I mentioned that one (just one – not all) was that I am in favor of well qualified, well trained, armed security guards she first, said she didn’t want armed civilians (another piece of misinformation) then stated ” And I don’t want the NRA buying seats on the school board.” Really! I am tired of trying logic with people who just drink the cool aid. And, before someone throws a hissy – that is not the same as not wanting to converse with those who disagree with me. I just want them to disagree with real facts and not intentionally perpetrated falsehoods.
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So I’m wondering since the Saratoga Teachers Association endorsed and worked to elect Dean Kolligian who supports rearming the monitors and was also endorsed by Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, do Betty Gallagher and her friends think the teachers union is somehow doing the bidding of the NRA ?
Ask Mrs. Gallagher if she is in favor of removing the school’s fire extinguishers.
After all, they can always call 9-1-1.
And for heaven’s sakes people–stay off FACEBOOK!
(Mr. G comes to mind.)
Good show, all.