Dear Superintendent of Scotch Plains-Fanwood Schools:
We have recently become aware of an incident relating to John Turnbull, which led to your actions to suspend John from his responsibilities associated with the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school system. We were saddened to hear of this ugly turn of events and, in attempt to bring some semblance of fairness to the equation, wanted to share some additional perspectives for your consideration.
In this litigious society in which we live, we certainly understand your decision to proactively manage the school system’s perceived risks in this regard by suspending John. Indeed, until the dust settles and perhaps calmer minds prevail, it may be an appropriate course of action. But, we ask that you and the rest of the administration consider the breadth of John’s strong record of contributions to the community’s activities, and live up to our time-tested standards of justice in America by ensuring that “the punishment fits the crime” in determining the professional fate of a man with such high integrity and character. To do otherwise would be a gross miscarriage of justice, and we believe that the administration should be responsible to this higher calling.
By means of background, we do not live in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood community. Rather, we live in neighboring Warren Township, but spend a fair amount of time in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood area. We have known John for close to 10 years and would entrust him with the lives of our children. In fact, John has not only taught our oldest and youngest children the game of golf, but has taken our oldest child on numerous occasions (with our firm blessings) to Florida in the winter in preparation for the upcoming high school golf seasons. Further, a couple of years ago, we had our middle child transfer into the Scotch Plains-Fanwood competitive MAPS soccer program just for the opportunity to play under the direction of John. In doing these things and supporting the Scotch Plains-Fanwood community, our decisions were not grounded in John’s proficiency as a golf and soccer coach. Rather, our decisions were grounded in John’s strength of character as a person, as embodied by a profound sense of respect for people and the highest degree of integrity. Indeed, it is these very character traits that we have always felt made him the ideal role model for each of our children, and we are proud to count him as both a friend and mentor for our kids. For those who truly know John and have seen his tireless contributions to the community, we are sure there would be a common recognition of John’s virtues.
Having said all of that, we recognize that there was an alleged infraction involving John sharing some wine at dinner with children under the legal age of drinking. We do not intend to debate the severity, or lack thereof, of this alleged infraction, and are greatly disappointed in the people that have escalated this debate in the public forums through the various local newspaper websites. As you know, there are people on all sides of this debate. All we say is that we are an imperfect people by nature and there is not one of us who has not committed a minor indiscretion or made a questionable decision at various points in their lives. But, we, as a society, should not condemn each other for isolated and perhaps innocent events, notwithstanding the legalities of the situation; rather, we should judge a person by his or her cumulative record of contributions to the community in which we live, work and raise our families, along with the honest and forthright manner in which that person conducts his or her life.
In teaching and coaching in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood area for upwards of 26 years, we are sure that John has both his share of supporters and adversaries. After all, that is sports and life, in general. What better tonic could there be for the disgruntled parent who did not believe their child got his or her fair chance to play than to jump on the bandwagon and promote such a severe punishment? As we have known John, he has never yielded to the politics and pressures to play “nice” with all of those over-competitive parents, choosing instead to focus on teaching the art of the sport and the principles of treating everyone fairly, while also ensuring that our child-athletes demonstrate the respect for the sports they played, including officials, coaches, teammates, parents and opponents. Perhaps it will be those very politics that cause his undoing and the tarnishing of a consistent record of community service, which would be so unjust at its core.
We are privileged to know John. We further believe that our communities need more role models like John Turnbull in our children’s lives. As such, we implore you and the rest of the administration to consider the totality of a person’s contributions, and, yes, sometimes failures, before casting judgment. You do not owe that to the public, you may not feel that you owe that to John, but you indeed owe it to yourselves as individuals and trusted leaders of the community in which we live.
Thank you for your consideration.
Lori and Jay Levine