SOUTHBRIDGE (CBS) – When an anonymous post on a local blog called Southbridge School Committee Chairwoman Lauren McLoughlin a “morbidly obese blueberry” she and her family weren’t real thrilled.
“I think those comments hurt the people that care about you even more than they hurt you,” McLoughlin said.
But when the blogger himself piled on with phrases like “she is of sufficient mass to have her own gravitational field” in an entry titled “weighty matters” McLoughlin believes it became bullying.
“I want my kids to know that bullies come in all shapes and sizes, that adults can be bullies too and that you can stand up for yourself,” she said.
The blogger is former Town Councilor and State Rep. Ken O’Brien. He declined to be interviewed, but his basic contention is that an overweight School Committee chair is setting a bad example in a state pushing an anti-obesity and fitness regimen for its students.
“I’m not trying to go tit for tat with him, I’m not trying to get in a fight with him,” McLoughlin said. “I’ve acknowledge that I’m overweight.”
But, when she tried to reach out to him to establish a more constructive dialogue on the subject, he declined. So she publicly rebuked his nasty, name-calling tactics in emotional fashion at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting.
“I am overweight,” McLoughlin said at the meeting. “But what does that possibly have to do with the fact that our school district has been chronically under-performing for a generation?”
On his website “The O’Zone” O’Brien called the controversy “nonsense” and the school chair’s response “manufactured outrage” designed to serve as a “distraction from the real issues.”
McLoughlin agrees it’s a distraction, but of O’Brien’s doing. “We should be focusing on the students and what’s happening in the district instead of making potshots at me,” she says.
McLoughlin says she supports O’Brien’s first amendment right to blog ugly stuff, even if he seems unwilling to own the consequences.
“We can’t control what people say or do but we can control how we react to it,” she says.