I’ve been told that Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) made remarks at the podium during the the Alma School District’s convocation yesterday. Several teachers have said they disapproved of his presence.

Harris is the state legislator and preschool owner who, along with his wife, Marsha, adopted two young girls and later rehomed them with a family where one of them was later sexually abused. He represents a legislative district centering on West Fork — a good thirty miles north of Alma — but Mike McSpadden, an assistant superintendent in Alma schools, said there’s some geographic overlap. McSpadden said Harris attended the ceremony to give an award to a retiring school administrator after Rep. Charlotte Douglas, a fellow Republican, could not attend as planned.

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“Rep. Charlotte Douglas, a resident of Alma, was scheduled to present a proclamation from the House of Representatives to Mr. Ronnie Newton, Assistant Superintendent of the Alma School District , who was being honored for his retirement yesterday. Rep. Douglas could not attend since a bill she was sponsoring was being discussed at the session in Little Rock, so she asked Rep. Harris, who represents part of the Alma School District, to make the presentation in her absence. He was not an invited speaker; he was a replacement presenter,” McSpadden said in an email.

Coincidentally, our cover story in this week’s Times concerns the question of whether Justin and Marsha Harris will ever face consequences for their actions, or whether Justin Harris will continue serving as an elected representative as if nothing ever happened. His return to regular civic duties — such as presenting awards at a school district — points towards the latter. The fact that Douglas felt that Harris would be a worthy replacement also speaks volumes. There has been surprisingly little censure of Harris from other Arkansas public officials.

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Not so with the general public, including many from West Fork — and Alma. On Facebook, one Alma teacher said of Harris’ appearance at the ceremony, “The people I was sitting with were aghast when we spotted him. I mean our jaws were dropped.”

I’m also waiting to hear confirmation about some interesting remarks Harris supposedly made while on stage at the award ceremony.

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