The school district’s report on its in-house investigation into Tiffany Justice’s visit to Beachland Elementary on April 7 tells a far different story than the fictional account she shared with a local radio audience.
Contrary to what she told Newsradio WTTB talk show host Bob Soos during a next-day interview, the former school board member wasn’t a victim.
She was an instigator making trouble at her child’s school.
The report, in fact, portrays Justice as being so disruptive and disrespectful in her interactions with Beachland teachers and administrators that School Superintendent David Moore warned she could be barred from the campus.
“If this behavior continues,” Moore wrote in an April 23 memo to the School Board, “the district will initiate the process to trespass this individual through law enforcement.”
Her conduct was THAT out of bounds – which is shocking on the part of a former school board member but not exactly surprising, given Justice’s history of arrogance and antagonism.
At the very least, her ugly antics were a blatant violation of the School Board policy that forbids threatening speech or actions – “behavior consisting of any words or deeds that intimidate a staff member or cause anxiety concerning wellbeing” – by any student, staff member or parent.
Justice claimed during her radio interview that she visited Beachland because her son, a fifth-grader at the school, was “having a hard time” with the district’s COVID-prompted mask mandate.
She said wearing a mask in class made it difficult for him to concentrate and caused him “a lot of mental anguish,” and she wanted to be there to show encouragement and support.
The district’s report, however, provides more than enough evidence to cast doubt on Justice’s motives – which weren’t as maternal as she wanted Soos and his radio audience to believe – and condemn her boorish tactics.
From the moment she entered Beachland, Justice was combative, conducting herself less like a caring mother and more like the co-founder of the local “Moms For Liberty” parental rights group that fiercely opposes mask mandates in schools.
She refused to don a mask as required by school policy – or allow her son to wear one – and, when arriving at his classroom, disregarded the teacher’s direction as to where to sit.
She then started taking notes, in an apparent attempt to intimidate her son’s teacher.
In her on-air interview, Justice claimed “there was no disruption on my part,” a statement that was either dishonest or delusional.
According to the district’s report, Justice “made some commentary during instruction, not even five minutes into the classroom session,” and her disturbing behavior was “very hurtful” to the teacher.
The report contains Vero Beach 32963 news stories, including one in which the teacher, Megan Brescia, publicly complained to the School Board about Justice’s confrontational conduct during the April visit.
Brescia, a longtime educator and three-time “Teacher of the Year,” said Justice had made her job a “nightmare,” adding, “The constant threatening and bullying tactics on her part is something I will no longer tolerate.”
She continued: “She has created a hostile situation. She has personally attacked my teaching practices, grading policies, classroom management and even accused me of lowering her [son’s grades unfairly].”
Brescia also accused Justice of repeatedly lying about the incident during her radio interview.
The classroom disruption, however, was only the beginning, as Justice went on to clash with Beachland Principal Rachel Finnegan, other school staffers and even Assistant School Superintendent Scott Bass.
Throughout the day, she criticized school rules and district policies, demanded to see them in writing, and generally showed little respect for teachers and administrators, speaking to them in a contemptuous tone and saying she didn’t trust them or the system.
During recess, Justice was told by a teacher, Tina Newberry, she couldn’t use the covered physical-education area to play basketball with her son and other students because the facility was already set up for the next class.
Instead of accepting the school’s policy – which the students were aware of – Justice childishly challenged it.
“She made a gesture of drawing a box around her head, saying, ‘I can’t be in the sun,’” the report states, adding that Justice finally relented and moved to the uncovered court, but only after mocking Newberry by telling the students, “No, no, no. She told us no.”
Newberry believed Justice undermined teachers’ authority and set a “poor example” for the students when she chose to “question and bully” her over a school rule, the report states.
Justice later challenged the school’s policy prohibiting parents from eating lunch with their children, and confronted Finnegan about the presence of a school resource officer who monitored their interaction.
“I told her I requested him to follow me, in the event she and I were not able to have a calm conversation,” Finnegan said in the report, adding, “I can have my SRO follow me at any time, if I feel there could be a potential situation.”
And one was coming.
After Bass was summoned to the campus to meet with Finnegan and Justice, he suggested they find a place where they could talk without causing a scene that might alarm students.
The three of them entered a storage area, where tempers flared – specifically, between Justice and Bass, who refused to be bullied and, apparently, didn’t mince words with Justice.
“The conversation was more of an argument” and “did not end well” with Justice saying, ‘I don’t trust you, Scott Bass,’” Finnegan said in the report.
For what it’s worth: The district’s investigation determined there was no merit to Justice’s allegations that teachers bullied her son, and that School Board Vice Chair Teri Barenborg violated the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) when she looked into Justice’s complaints about Beachland.
The report does, however, support the teachers’ allegations that they were the victims of Justice’s threats and intimidation.
Don’t expect Justice to start behaving like a responsible parent and good citizen after being exposed by the report, though, because she got what she wanted most – attention.
Maybe she’s trying to generate headlines for “Moms For Liberty,” which persisted in its opposition to the district’s mask mandate into May, causing unnecessary turmoil for a School Board and superintendent that have more important issues to address.
Or maybe, in a desperate attempt to remain relevant, she’s plotting another run for the School Board after choosing to not run last year, when she knew she had no chance to win.
If so, her actions at Beachland will be seen as disqualifying by many voters.