A Crawford Central School Board member is facing backlash for trading insults on social media and posting critical comments about President Donald Trump, including using variations of the phrase "clean head shot."
A member of the public used the comment period at the end of Monday’s school board meeting to call out the social media activity of board member Glenn Tuttle.
“One of our school board members made very inappropriate remarks on Facebook,” Bonnie Van Nort began without identifying Tuttle by name. “We are all entitled to our opinions, but as an elected school board member, I would think that one would want to support our students, staff and community.”
Van Nort is a sub-contractor for the district who does the sign language for the televised meetings but spoke as a member of the public who has a student in the district.
After Van Nort spoke, Tuttle offered a defense of his use of social media. Following the meeting, Van Nort supplied the Tribune with hard copies of Facebook postings from Dec. 19, including the comments by Tuttle that she had been referring to in her comments to the board.
The postings include a number of people trading insults and criticisms of political beliefs back and forth, including several comments from Tuttle that are critical of then President-elect Trump. Tuttle was elected to the board as a Republican in 2013 to fill out an open seat on the board and re-elected to a four-year term in 2015. More recently, he has identified himself as a Libertarian.
In the course of those comments, he was asked the question, “Are you a racist?”
“Only towards the trailer trash KKK supporters that make up Chump’s support base,” Tuttle wrote in reply, using one of several disparaging nicknames he employed for officials from both sides of the political spectrum, this one for Trump. “I can’t wait to see the stats as his welfare leeches finally die. Best thing ever. #notmypresident #MAGA with a clean head shot.”
This comment was one of three in a five-minute span using variations on the phrase “clean head shot” in connection with the abbreviated hashtag for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
In another of the postings, he advised a Trump supporter to “celebrate your Nazi god’s ‘win’” before saying, “Hopefully they find that special one who can do it right and #MAGA with a clean shot.”
Tuttle confirmed Tuesday that he had made the postings.
“I do stand behind the comments,” he told the Tribune.
“Would I necessarily want kids to read that?” he asked. “No, but it’s also the job of parents to actually monitor what their kids are reading.”
After Van Nort’s comments to the board on Monday, Tuttle drew a sharp distinction between the contrasting styles he employs when addressing the public as a board member and when posting on social media as a private citizen. If people find his language on social media offensive, he said, “Don’t read my posts.”
He also defended the posts and even suggested they provided a good lesson.
“Should we teach our students honesty or should we teach them mendacity?” he asked rhetorically.
Following Van Nort’s address to the board, Crawford Central School Board President Jan Feleppa immediately moved to distance herself, the board and the school district from Tuttle’s online comments.
“The remarks you’re referring to do not express the opinions of the other board members and the board member’s comments were made as a private citizen,” she said. “They were not authorized by this board, the administration of Crawford Central School District or me as board president to make any of the comments on behalf of either the board or the school district.
“I appreciate that you understand that there’s nothing that it’s in our purview to do about it,” Feleppa told Van Nort.
A school board does not have the power to remove a school board member, according to Steve Robinson, senior director of communications at the Pennsylvania School Board Association.
“It is outside the authority of school board members to remove one of their own,” Robinson said.
Since school board members are elected, it would be up to the electors to remove a member from office, Robinson said.
While Van Nort acknowledged Tuttle’s right to free speech, she called on him to consider the example he was setting.
“You are a representative to our students,” she told him. “If it’s OK for you to talk that way, what would a teacher do if a student spoke this way in class? They wouldn’t tolerate it.”
“I for one won’t tolerate this behavior,” she concluded.
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
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