Williamsport Elementary parent counters bullying allegations

By Ryan Miner

Yesterday afternoon I received a candid, albeit friendly, email from my dear friend, Jim Miller. Jim is a well-known and well-respected business leader in Washington County. You may recognize Jim as the owner of After Five Productions, and you’ve probably seen him on The Flip Side, a panel-driven television talk show that centers almost exclusively on local topics; the show is broadcasted on Antietam Cable. I’ve also appeared with Jim on The Flip Side in the past on numerous occasions.

It should go without saying – but I’ll say it nonetheless – I have nothing but the utmost respect for Jim. He’s always shown me incredible kindness and compassion. When times were tough for me, Jim always had my back. Loyalty is a virtue I hold in high regard. When it’s shown to me, I reciprocate; I consider Jim Miller my loyal friend. I respect Jim as a parent, thought leader, a strong champion for the Washington County community and an above-average businessman.

The email Jim sent me yesterday is a direct counter to the story I released on Tuesday in which several Williamsport Elementary School parents took to social media to lambast Williamsport Elementary School physical education teacher Andrew Bokman. Parents alleged that Bokman is bullying their children during gym class, but Jim offered a diametrically opposite view of the situation, countering much of what I wrote with personal anecdotes about his experience with Bokman.

Jim gave me permission to share his email on A Miner Detail. Below is Jim’s email he shared with me.

Ryan:

Hello and I hope this message finds you well. 

I had an opportunity to read your blog last night about Andrew Bokman, the P.E. teacher at WES.  I am not sure of all of your sources but I need to tell you that the comments you received are completely contrary to my experience.  I am president of the PTA at that school, although I am not writing in that role, and I have worked with Mr. Bokman in his capacity as P.E. teacher, as a volunteer at many of our PTA events, and as a coach for my son’s high school cross country team. I have never seen any such issues nor have I heard anything but praise for Mr. Bokman and his commitment to our children.

Mr. Bokman is absolutely a high-energy teacher and he has high expectations for his students.  In my case the most recent manifestation of those expectations was my daughter Faith, who you will remember suffers from Spina Bifida, successfully performing in a gymnastics show on Thursday evening that her pediatric neurosurgeon would have probably argued she couldn’t do. By the way, there were probably 20+  former students of his that had volunteered over the last few months to work with him after school 1 or 2 days per week to put this event together. 

He took my son A.J. who was a mediocre player in both soccer and baseball and helped him develop a love for running which has not only pulled away from the X-box and towards physical exercise but has also resulted in him changing his diet for the better. He was the second fastest freshman runner at the end of the cross country season and a couple of weeks ago we were at a restaurant and my son chose water over a soft drink citing that, “he wanted to stop putting that garbage in his body.”  As a parent, it’s not much of a leap of faith to think that if he doesn’t want soft drinks, he probably won’t want drugs either.  These are my two examples and I know there are other parents and students who have had similar experiences.

On the discipline side, I can confirm that Mr. Bokman does expect compliance from his students in class—a trait which I applaud.  I believe children learn best when they know their boundaries. I also believe P.E. teachers are in the subset of educators where ignored boundaries can result in children getting injured. P.E. equipment can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

So that is a very long-winded run-up to a very basic point, you and I have agreed on many things in the past but I can’t be with you on this one.  I think you only received one side of the story—and I know you can relate to the problems that can create because during your political run there were those who only presented one side of your story.  Having a single DUI does not mean you are a drunk even if there are people that say it does.  Similarly, enforcing rules in a classroom does not make you a bully even if some say it does. 

If you are going to allow your post to remain, I hope you will take an opportunity to publish the other side of the story.  The side that I believe represents the vast majority of his students and their parents.  You are welcome to use any or all of what I have provided above.  If you choose not to amend, I hope you will respect my right to investigate and publish the other side of the story independently through the channels I have at my disposal.

 Thanks Ryan.

 Respectfully,

 Jim Miller

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About Ryan
Ryan Miner is Editor in Chief, Founder and Publisher of AMinerDetail.com. Miner is the sole reporter and columnist at AMinerDetail.com, covering Maryland news, politics, business, education, national, state and local government. Miner is the host of A Miner Detail Podcast.

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