Saying its clients and staff were harassed by Central Bucks community members, the public relations firm hired by the Central Bucks School District ended its contract with the district, school officials recently announced.
In a “Message for the CBSD Community,” the district said a mutual agreement had been reached with Devine + Partners to severe ties.
“Central Bucks has learned that a group of community members have engaged in targeted harassment of several clients and staff of Devine + Partners, threatening their association with our district in ways that are, at best caustic, and at worst, malicious and false,” the district’s message stated.
The announcement did not contain any specifics on the accusations of harassment, saying only that “the actions have created much turmoil for Divine + Partners…and throughout this emerging situation, Divine + Partners has maintained transparency with the district about the implications they are facing in the wake of these attacks.”
The district, which has been garnering headlines for more than a year for initiating policies that critics have called anti-LGBTQ+ and supportive of censorship, hired the Philadelphia-based company last July.
Divine charged the district $15,000 a month, plus any out-of-pocket costs. The expenditure prompted some public criticism.
At the time, CB resident Kathleen Davis told the board, “It’s time for you to stop blaming your constituents and the majority of this community for the problematic national reputation that CB now has. We are not the ones damaging the district’s reputation. You and these policies are.”
The Pennsylvania branch of the ACLU filed a federal complaint last October alleging the district created a “toxic” environment for LCBTQ+ students and a pattern of discrimination.
An online group, Central Bucks Engage, recently posted a comment The Philadelphia Inquirer reported from a Central Bucks student regarding Divine + Partners.
“Zandi Hall, a senior at Central Bucks West, called the statement about Devine + Partners’ departure “a smokescreen to hide the real issue — that the district wanted someone to spin their policies in ways that made them look less bad.”
The Inquirer also reported that Hall started a petition, CB Taxpayers Against Wasteful Spending, targeting the PR firm costs, as well as other district spending.
In its statement, the district said, it’s “grateful to Devine + Partners for its professional guidance over the past several months and for its assistance in finalizing the restructuring of the district’s internal communications function.”