School Board requires member to delete controversial posts
Three weeks ago, a letter to the Spotlight called for Scappoose School Board member Tim Brooks to resign.
The letter, from Warren resident and 2015 Scappoose High School graduate Robert Backus, highlighted inflammatory and racially insensitive posts on Brooks' public Facebook page and led to an online petition calling for Brooks' resignation, which has garnered almost 1,300 signatures.
Last week, in a June 22 virtual work session, the Scappoose School Board got its first chance to address the controversy. The board required Brooks to remove two of those Facebook posts and passed a motion stating that Brooks violated the district's standards of conduct for board members.
Board chair Michelle Graham introduced the issue, saying, in part, "The complaint alleges that the posts on his public Facebook page are inflammatory and incite violence. These posts are not in accordance with the values and tradition of the Scappoose School District that he has been elected to represent."
Over the next two hours, the board heard the official complaint presented by Mark Sprenger (a longtime Scappoose High School teacher and the Negotiations/Grievance Chair for the Executive Board of the Scappoose Education Association), a response from Brooks, then comments from eight local citizens, four who called for Brooks to be punished or resign, and four who spoke in support of Brooks.
To read more from the citizens who spoke at the work session, click here.
After discussing the issue over the final hour of the meeting, the board took the following actions. First, it directed Brooks to remove the two Facebook posts mentioned in the complaint (one suggested the use of firehoses on protesters at demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, while the other was a re-post from another Facebook user saying that America's founding fathers would have hung Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason). Brooks, who has changed his Facebook page setting to private, agreed to remove those posts.
The board also passed a motion declaring that Brooks violated the Scappoose School District board member standards of conduct No. 21 policy which requires board members to treat fellow board members, teachers, staff, students and the public with respect.
In addition, the board requested a resolution reinforcing its support of the Scappoose School District's mission statement — "Cultivating passionate lifelong learners for an ever-changing world." That request will be addressed at the school board's July meeting.
Board members made no mention of the online petition calling for Brooks' resignation, and did not respond to a charge that Brooks violated guidelines within the district's governance handbook.
Beyond that, there was plenty of criticism regarding Brooks' Facebook posts, as well as support for his free speech rights.
"I feel that some kids reading (Brooks' Facebook posts), some parents reading this, were disrespected," said board vice-chair Will Kessi, later adding "We are not a district that tolerates hatred of any kind. Our children need to see that."
"I can see why some people would find those two referenced posts in the complaint to be personally unacceptable. There are posts all over social media that are offensive and unacceptable," said board member Lisa Maloney. "But it is a public forum where people choose to go to post, share ideas and comment. If you don't like what's there, you can post your own views or you can simply leave."
There were plenty of fireworks even before the board's discussion and decisions, however.
In Sprenger's presentation, he said "The statements, threats and violence endorsed by Mr. Brooks on social media are contrary to (the district's mission)."
After emphasizing the requirement for board members' social media posts to be respectful toward fellow board members, teachers, staff, students and the public, Sprenger said "Mr. Brooks fell far short of (that) when he made a post that recommended violence against a peaceful rally being organized by students."
Finally, Sprenger asked this: "The question before you is whether or not the school board will stand by its stated mission, values and policies, and condemn Mr. Brooks … or will the board in its silence be complicit with these statements?"
In his response, Brooks said that his Facebook posts were not intended to represent the school board or school district's positions, that his personal views have never interfered with his service as a school board member, and that he respects the district's teachers, administrators, staff, students and their parents.
Regarding the two Facebook posts mentioned in the complaint — which he agreed to remove — Brooks said that he was "deeply disturbed by the ongoing rioting, looting, arson and other criminal behavior that has run rampant in many cities across this country. … I reposted that out of that frustration."
The post about Obama and Clinton, "said that our forefathers would have hung them for treason," Brooks said. "That's a bold statement, but since they have constantly worked to get our current president out of office with lies and stories that no one could prove, it was truly treason in my eyes. Once again, this is my opinion which I am entitled to."
He concluded his five-minute response by saying that he had "voted as a board member in ways that honor the families I serve. I will continue to do this as long as I am a board member, at least until the end of my term. The easiest thing to do would be to resign, but I wasn't elected because I was soft."
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