Knife displayed at Alton School Board meeting suddenly puts member & people who oppose him in the spotlight; a week later
Published Date Written by Michael KitchALTON — "It's so ironic that it's over the top," said Stephen Miller, the member of the Alton School Board who just yesterday found himself at the center of a media frenzy after displaying a folding knife during a discussion of the board's weapons policy at a meeting a week ago. "But, that's Alton," he added.
A video of the proceedings shows Miller, who was elected to the School Board last year after serving for a number of years on the Budget Committee, holding the knife while urging the board to amend its policy by prohibiting all firearms and knives on school property. Although the current policy forbids students to carry either guns or knives, it permits adults to bring unloaded, properly secured firearms on to the campus in their vehicles as well as to carry "legal" knives.
Miller said that New Hampshire in the lone state in the union with no restrictions on knives, effectively making all knives "legal." To highlight his point, he took a pocket knife from his briefcase, opened its three-and-a-half inch blade and held it up as if it were an umbrella. "This is essentially legal on campus," he was recorded to say.
By the time Jeff St. Cyr, chairman of the board, reminded Miller that the policy allows adults to carry knives but "not having a knife open" and asked him to put it away he had already done so, after displaying it for less than 30 seconds.
Reporting on the meeting in The Baysider weekly newspaper, Tim Croes made no mention of the incident, writing only that Miller was the only member of the board to vote in favor of forbidding all weapons on school grounds.
But, the video made its way to Facebook and by Wednesday had reached WMUR-TV, then the Associated Press. Most reported Miller as "pulling," "flashing" or brandishing" the knife to the distress of parents of schoolchildren.
Speaking on television, Karl ingoldsby said "it was a very large knife" while Keith Dube said Miller's conduct was "ridiculous" and called for a "reprimand." With no pun intended, Maureen Paul remarked "you can make your point a different way. . . verbally, but not by brandishing a knife."
Dube, who did not attend the meeting, said yesterday that after seeing the video he was troubled that "an elected school board member would be brandishing a knife at a board meeting," He believed that if a member of the public were to do the same thing, "he would be escorted from the building by the police." He conceded that Miller was expressing a legitimate opinion, but "he just went about it the wrong way. At the very least he showed poor judgement."
As a write-in candidate, Dube last year challenged Miller for the seat on the School Board but fell 90 votes shy. He said that as a member of the Budget Committee, Miller was a critic of of the School Board and since joining the board was the lone member to recommend against the $18.7-million renovation and expansion of Alton Central School on the school district warrant in March.
Commenting on the incident with the knife, Dube conceded "if he was a different person, it might have been handled differently."
"They're really shooting the messenger," Miller said, stressing that twice the other four members of the School Board voted against his proposal to ban all weapons from school property. "Zero tolerance. That's my goal," he said. "I'm the guy trying to make sure we don't become another Newtown or Aurora."
Miller said that when he displayed the knife "the other members were not offended. I told them they should be offended," he continued. "I was offended."
Dube said Police Ryan Heath informed him that he has referred the incident to the New Hampshire State Police. Meanwhile, he remarked that "I didn't want him on the School Board in the first place" and suggested he should consider resigning. But, while noting that "lots of parents are very upset," Dube "there is nothing organized at this point."