Two years ago a teacher at Southeastern Regional High School named Matthew Parris was arrested and charged with raping 2 students.
Parris was hired by Superintendent Luis Lopes, and is a member of his family. You would think that a school district embroiled in a child rape scandal just 2 years ago would be sensitive to the issue of child sex abuse moving forward, but now that the Chairman of their School Committee has been accused of similar things it seems as if they learned nothing.
The Southeastern Regional School Committee held a 2 hour closed door executive session last night to discuss recent troubling allegations made against Chairman Anthony Branch, which were detailed on TB Daily News. These allegations, which are all backed up by court documents, include:
- Having sex with a 15 year old girl he groomed and later married, even though she claimed she was never in love with him
- Shacking up with a vulnerable woman with a criminal record and a young baby, who he had just met on the Internet
- Having orders placed against him by two his children, their mother, his ex-wife, the woman he shacked up with, and the man who had sex with his ex-wife
- Owing over $100K in credit card debt, and $42K in unpaid taxes
- Having gun charges filed on him
- Violating an abuse prevention order
- Lying about being a bishop when he wasn’t
- Telling several contradictory stories about who ordained him as a minister and when
- Turning his house into a church in order to avoid property taxes
- Defrauding the government to get Section 8
- Trying to defraud DCF for benefits
- Attempting to defraud an insurance company
- Was a Muslim at one point before while also claiming to be a Christian minister, and still has a Facebook account that uses his Muslim name
- Abusing the court system to silence people who criticize him
Additionally, we spoke with his ex-wife Evelyn Wiggins who told us,
“The abuse started when I was 14 at my cousin’s house, and I was penetrated by him when I was 15. He said God always wanted him to have a virgin. That haunts me to this day. I will be your witness.”
Wiggins also alleged in an interview that:
- He was never ordained as a bishop
- He doesn’t go to church, and only sees his youngest child every other weekend.
- He was still dating Alicia Kennerly (the mother of 2 of his children) when he began molesting Evelyn at the age of 14
- He accused Kennerly of sleeping with another man, waved his gun at her
- He was allegedly physical with Kennerly and his newest girlfriend Lashaun Middleton.
- He was a serial scammer who forged court, tax, and identity documents, including the name Toney Shabazz, to run up credit card bills.
- His oldest daughter with Evelyn is now 14 and no longer visits him. She sees a therapist and Evelyn thinks he might’ve done something to her.
- Evelyn never slept with Antonio Harris, the man Branch accused her of having an affair with. He lied about getting camera footage from the Holiday Inn Express in Braintree, which he would have no access to. It was just another one of his scams. Harris was her boss at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. Branch asked her to “pull a Lewinsky” and say that Harris used his position of authority to coerce her into having sex, so that they could sue the state. He then began to harass Harris to the point of Harris getting a harassment prevention order placed on him.
- Branch forged a fake Bachelor’s Degree from a college that no longer exists in order to get hired at Mass General Hospital.
- Branch was fired from MGH in 2015 for overseeing an overtime fraud scheme.
- Branch has no degree from any sort of theological institution.
- Lashaun Middleton was 22 when she moved in with him in 2015, and Branch told her he was a 35 year old many named Toney Shabazz. She realized it wasn’t him when she was pulled over one day in his car and had to give police his registration. This prompted her to reach out to Evelyn Wiggins.
- Wiggins’ son still goes on visits with Branch and reportedly told his mother that he is grooming, or having a relationship with a 17 year old girl, who he “teaches law” to, because she believes he’s some sort of legal expert.
Wiggins has made it clear that she is willing to speak on the record, as Tony continued to masquerade as a well respected member of the community.
It’s important to remember that these are not baseless allegations. According to court documents in Plymouth Probate Court a judge ruled that it was “not credible” that Tony Branch waited until Wiggins was 18 to have a sexual relationship with her.
The legal age of consent in Massachusetts is 16, but that doesn’t mean that men in their mid 30’s who groom and have sex with 16-17 year old girls should be serving as chairperson of a regional school committee.
However, sources from inside the executive session of last night’s School Committee meeting have reported that the 9 other members of the Committee are primarily concerned with keeping this story under wraps, and have no intention of taking any action. Consequently Branch is refusing to step down. They have received dozens of emails from concerned parents and citizens, and we would urge you to continue to email them and demand that Tony Branch step down as chair:
Gerson Monteiro (Brockton), Andrew Heath (East Bridgewater), Michael Pietrowski (Easton), Stephen Udden (Foxborough), Christina Gaze (Mansfield), Barbara Kaplan (Norton), Mindy Kempner (Sharon), Robin Zoll (Stoughton), Susan Sullivan (West Bridgewater)
Our source from inside the executive session reports that Stephen Udden and Robin Zoll were the most vocal members last tonight, as counsel sat with them and offered advice. Udden’s goal was to “come up with a joint statement that starts with “for the best interest of the kids and the reputation of our schools, whether it’s true (the blog) or not true.”
According to Udden he’s worried that other media will soon approach him for comment and he doesn’t know what to say.
“It’s only a matter of time until some reporter is gonna call me, or someone is gonna bump into me at Cumberland Farms and say what the hell is going on at Southeastern? You have said nothing and everyone can smell a diaper on the table.”
Branch was opposed to releasing a statement:
“Wouldn’t releasing a statement be giving credibility to the blog?”
Udden pointed out that Branch wasn’t the only one whose reputation was being respected:
“We have a problem as a board that’s running a school district that’s in charge of kids. “I think a certain member of this board needs to do what’s right for this committee, and our schools reputation, and above all our children.”
He urged Tony to resign to protect the integrity of the committee and the school district:
“People resign all the time for personal reasons. We are being besmirched publicly as an organization, a district, as individual representatives, and personally.”
Robin Zoll disagreed:
“This blog has questionable credibility. Any of us could be attacked by him, but we have to keep the school’s reputation in mind. So if anyone contacts us we all have to speak with one voice.”
Branch claimed that he is the victim here, and that there are no allegations against him:
“What is an accusation, and what is an allegation? Individuals are being cyber bullied. They don’t resign, they don’t go and run, and quite frankly act guilty. There is no allegation or accusation that is against me. None. Not one.”
Branch got testy during an exchange with Member Mindy Kempener, who stated that she had concerns. Branch claimed that he was the real victim here, and Member Sandra Sullivan attempted to intervene when he raised his voice:
Kempener: “The public response is what we’re responding to. The reputation of the school and all of our students and the ability to attract good teachers going forward. All of this is being impacted by the public response, whether it’s real or not. I feel I have an obligation to protect this school and its reputation. There’s a waiting list because this is a great school and its a great school with a great reputation and right now that reputation is under attack, whether it’s real or not.”
Branch: “It’s real to me. I’m a victim.”
Kempener: My name and information is out there.”
Branch: “Because we are elected officials.”
Kempener: “Because I’m affiliated with this school.”
Branch: “You do not have the tag of being a pedophile. You do not have the tag of being a sexual predator. I have that tag.”
Sullivan: Can you stop right now? Tony, we’re not here for you to defend yourself. You have all of our support, you know that.”
Sullivan urged him to resign as chair:
“We’re asking you to resign as chair, not as a school committee member. It shows that you can put the interests of Southeastern on the forefront. You can use that to settle things down.”
Branch made it clear that would not be happening, because black children needed someone who looked like them to be chairman of a regional school committee:
“So let me just say that I will not be stepping down as chair. My elevation to chair has impacted so many kids that look like me. That has really been impactful. Where I’m coming from they look at this attack a lot different lens, the lens I’m looking at. What I’m looking at is a right wing blog that has said I will be removed as chair this evening. That’s posted everywhere on that blog.”
Sullivan: “I don’t follow him so I had no idea he said that.”
Branch: “So for me and the lens that I’m coming from, and the lens that the people who have respected the elevation of this young black boy from Roxbury that was homeless, that is now the chair of this magnificent school, it seemed much different. This is a blog that has manufactured this dispute as a result of a private civil matter. Of course I thought about resigning. Of course I’ve heard people’s advice on that. No, that will not be happening.”
This focus on identity is a core tenet of critical race theory – children can not succeed in school unless educators “look like them.” That doesn’t mean that obese children need obese teachers though. This rule strictly applies to the color of a child’s skin. Branch knows this is a link of thinking that will work with members like Christina Gaze, who champions herself as a “diversity, equity, and inclusion she/her.”
Robin Zoll urged Branch to temporarily step down as chair for the good of the children, while also stating that she found Turtleboy to be distasteful:
“Step aside for the good of the students, for the good of the school, and it may reflect well on you. I listened to his broadcast, I’ve read this, I don’t know what you call it, his digital newspaper he puts out. It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.”
Branch then made up this lie:
“He referred to me on Sunday as a black bitch. I’m not resigning as chair of this board. I’ve done nothing.”
At no point did I ever call Tony Branch a “black bitch” during the Live Show. He is referring to this phrase in the freestyle in which he was called a “wack bitch.”
I email myself the lyrics before my freestyle, and the record speaks for itself:
He once again made this same false assertion when I questioned him about the allegations made against him by Evelyn Wiggins.
Notice how he uses the race card and victimizes himself (made up death threats, calling a reporter a dangerous man) the second he is asked a legitimate question about his past. He also uses God as a shield, despite the fact that his alleged faith appears to be fraudulent. He claims that the woman who made allegations made against him in court, which a judge deemed to be credible, never happened. The facts show otherwise.
Udden’s primary concern wasn’t protecting the students though, it was protecting himself from upset parents:
“I could have a defamation or libel case against me if I say a peep about this. Social media can take a canned response that we all agree with and send it to parents, and right now there are a bunch of parents I’ve talked to that are ON FIRE, pissed off, concerned, alarmed. And I’m not bringing the individual into this, I’m bringing the situation of the school into it, and we’re the ones who manage it. And I am terrified of even saying I don’t talk to the chair that much because someone can say the vice chair and the chair don’t talk and there’s division. I’m not leaving this room in the minefield that what is already a visceral and very apparent media storm between a private citizen and someone else.”
Udden then explained that he didn’t want to publicly respond because it would be giving credit to Turtleboy Daily News:
“I agree with those who have said we’re not gonna give this blogger credibility. And the blogger’s name is Turtleboy and I didn’t find out about Turtleboy until 2 weeks ago when a constituent sent me a link. I don’t follow him, I don’t buy his hats, I don’t do any of that crap. But a bell has been rung, a constituent sent me this, and then parents started calling and saying what the hell is going on here, and if I say nothing the press can report it.”
He claimed that he had no idea what TB Daily News was until he was interrupted by concerned parents while watching his favorite cable television program. He was not a fan of the foul language:
“I’m being bullied by a jerk out on the Internet. I was just sitting there watching How It’s Made on cable when all this stuff went down, and suddenly 2 days later a photograph of me is in the paper, and my name and my email address. I can’t speak publicly on this so I’m either going to look mum, or look supportive of something that is not proven, and comes from what anyone might agree is a very, very controversial blog. And vulgar! Vulgar in some cases. And I do not ascribe to this person’s beliefs. I don’t follow this guy, but I do have to follow some of these texts because I don’t know what they’re going to say about my daughters and their father who sits on the board in charge of their schools.
He clearly wanted Branch to step down, but was unwilling to take a stand and demand that he do so:
I’m terrified to go out that door, I’m walking on eggshells. And I’m sorry Tony, but I’ve heard you say the words I and me a lot tonight, and I haven’t heard you talk about what’s best for the kids at the school.”
He’s dead right though – if Branch actually cared about the students and the school, then he would resign. But his primary concern is himself because he is an egomaniac. Branch claims that children in Brockton are behind him because they’ve all suffered at the hands of the criminal justice system:
“The kids I’ve spoken to from Brockton, they’re 1,000% behind me and their families. Because the majority of them have suffered at the criminal justice system, the majority of them have suffered at the hands of police contact, the majority of them of have suffered at being cyber-bullied. There is a different lens.”
This is all a deflection. The woman making these accusations is a black woman, and Tony doesn’t suffer at the hands of the court system, he abuses the court system.
Udden didn’t have the fortitude to tell him to step down though:
“Kids in our school, and yes I am concerned about my kids and my family. The genesis of my name being out there in the press had nothing to do with me or my actions up until that blog went out. And I hate that this is happening to you, and I think the guy who’s doing it is a piece of shit. You have an issue with him, and he has an issue with you, but I have an issue with how my school is being perceived. Right now my credibility is in the toilet, whether it’s valid or not, in the public eye. I feel like I can’t do the regular business of our school. I agree with you that it’s innocent to proven guilty, but right now….”
Robin Zoll made it clear that she was not asking Tony resign and didn’t want the committee to put out a statement because doing so would mean Turtleboy wins:
“If we put out a statement asking Tony to resign, he’s gonna win……I haven’t ever been on his page on Facebook. I would never post on it. But I went to see what it was, what the parental reaction was. It was an innocent look at that page, it was the first time I saw it. I immediately went down the rabbit hole, and it’s interesting because you can’t even look at it without an ad blocker on. I’ve watched it, I was disgusted, and unfortunately too many people seem to believe, that anything they hear is true. And I think we have to say, he’s not gonna win.”
Why is Robin Zoll so concerned about “winning” against Turtleboy? Why isn’t her primary focus the children and the school? How is Turtleboy “winning” by acting as the voice for a woman who alleges that she was sexually abused as a minor by the chair of the committee that Robin Zoll sits on? Why is Robin Zoll, a member of the League of Women Voters, trying so hard to silence the voice of a black woman speaking her truth?
Zoll claimed that the parents complaining didn’t matter because there weren’t enough of them commenting on Facebook to get anyone’s attention:
“First of all, it’s only a few parents. I’m sure it’s the same names that we’ve all gotten. It’s not a majority of parents. On Turtleboy’s page there was 23 comments. That’s not a lot. I saw another one that had 56 comments. It’s a handful of people who have sent emails, but we’re not getting it form the majority of parents, we’re getting it from select parents.”
Susan Sullivan was one of the lone voices of reason who pointed out that the decision on whether or not to step down as chair shouldn’t be Tony Branch’s to make:
“I could care less about anything about what it looks like. Our responsibility as a School Committee member is to the best interest of the kids and the school. If there is an inference that we are neglecting our responsibilities, that is what I’m concerned about. With all due respect Tony, I don’t want Tony to make the decision that he’s not stepping down because I’m not gonna let him win. That’s not really your decision, it’s our decision. It’s impacting us as School Committee members.”
After that they took a recess for 5 minutes before returning. Udden pointed out that “Turtleboy is outside,” but that he didn’t make eye contact with me. The official result of this meeting was that all emails sent to members of the School Committee would be forwarded and referred to Tony Branch, and that it would be up to him to make a comment.
In other words, Udden and all the other members are afraid to take a public stand on this issue because they’re afraid of how it will look if 8 white members of a School Committee ask the first black chair of the committee to step down. They clearly are worried about the school’s reputation, and the effect it will have on the students, they’re just not willing to do anything about it.
Their silence is unacceptable, and they’re hoping this goes away before a mainstream newspaper writes about it. This is what always happens when we break a major story like this or Monica Cannon-Grant – the establishment continues to associate with a criminal until mainstream media picks up the story. But they know the truth now. They’ve seen the indisputable court documents. And if they continue to protect this man then we will show up with hundreds of people to protest at every meeting from this day forward.
Tony Branch is right – kids in Brockton do need a good role model representing them on this committee. The problem is he’s not a good role model. And if a teacher was accused of what Branch was then they would be put on paid leave until the matter was investigated.