Facebook Slur May Lead to School Board Member’s Censure

The Camden school board has been advised to dish out the state’s first penalty for improper Facebook use by the Ethics Commission, after school board member Sean Brown mentioned “local terrorists” in a Facebook wall post that linked to a photograph of School Superintendent Bessie LeFra Young on the district’s website, writes Jeremy Rosen at the Courier-Post.

Brown posted:

“Now if we could only do something about our local terrorists that destroy dreams and burn futures.”

The Commission had previously imposed a reprimand and a suspension for board members who posted inappropriate information on media websites, saying that the censure would send a “cautionary message” about the proper use of Facebook under the state School Ethics Act, writes Rosen.

“I’m not ashamed of what I did,” said Brown, who was appointed to the board in May 2010 by Mayor Dana Redd.

“There was a lot of attention about Osama Bin Laden’s killing at that time. Whether he’s alive or dead, local leadership isn’t taking the issues of education and student safety seriously enough. They’re responsible for a lot of lives and like terrorists can destroy a lot of people.”

The Commission disagreed, with Commission Chairman Robert Bender commenting:

“(Brown’s) chosen method and manner for doing so was inappropriate.

“Comparing the superintendent to a terrorist, on a social media outlet which allowed for access by many people, was an intentionally confrontational act. The statement may reasonably be considered as undermining, opposing, compromising or harming the superintendent in the proper performance of her duties.”

Yet, Brown said he’ll continue to post freely:

“I don’t feel like I did anything wrong other than not filtering people I’m friends with.

“The people who do things wrong are those who hide violence and allow the district’s graduation rate to stay below 50 percent. My advice to other board members is don’t be friends with incompetent board members.”

This comes after another school board scandal triggered by a Facebook comment in the state. The row began as a Union County teacher posted anti-gay Facebook comments which ignited a robust debate over free speech, gay rights and the separation of church and state, writes Jessica Calefati at The Star-Ledger.

The teacher described homosexuality as “a perverted spirit” and “a sin that breeds like cancer.”

This week saw the first Union Township school board meeting since the issue broke, and a crowd of about 300 people turned out to both denounce and show support for the teacher.

The district has announced that it has launched an investigation to determine whether Knox’s conduct violated any school policies.

The New Jersey Education Association is aiding the teacher with legal guidance, an NJEA spokesman said.