A fellow board member said an employee who made such comments would have faced a disciplinary hearing and possibly termination.
Suzan Gilligan was sworn into the Palmyra Board of School Directors Thursday night, but that doesn’t mean parents and fellow board members are done voicing their opposition to questionable posts she made on Facebook.
Over the past several years, Gilligan posted on her Facebook page about her support for the Confederate Flag, shared a meme that stated Holocaust victims did “not fight back,” and posted she had the “wrong color skin” to get any sort of government assistance.
The posts have angered some in the community and led a few parents to object to her taking a seat on the board at a meeting in November.
At a sparsely attended meeting on Thursday, only two parents commented on the issue. But several board members expressed their concern with Gilligan’s posts, and one called on her to make a public statement addressing the matter.
“We teach our students, we teach our children, that we all make mistakes, and that’s okay, and we accept responsibility, we move forward from those mistakes,” board member Christine Fisher said. “I would like to publicly request that we receive some sort of statement or response for the actions and words that we’ve been presented with throughout the campaign.”
Gilligan made no comments during the meeting. When asked afterward if she would ever address the posts, she said “we will see.”
She declined to comment further.
Gilligan will serve as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association representative for the board.
In the November election, Gilligan ran on a slate with several other Republican candidates, including Mike Ludwig, Karen Ludwig and Krista Barley. Gilligan received 2,609 votes to earn 11.72 percent of the vote, which put her in fifth place, the last to get a seat on the board.
Parents urged to hold board accountable
Several other board members addressed the issue during the meeting.
Board President Christopher Connell said there is nothing the board could do to block Gilligan from taking her seat, as a change.org petition signed by over 1,100 people asked of them.
But he said he would continue to hold his fellow board members to a higher standard, and asked parents to do the same.
Director Larry Geib spoke strongly against the posts, noting to applause that staying silent on the matter would wrongly imply his support for the sentiments shared.
“If these things would have been stated by an employee, we’d have a disciplinary hearing and their job would be in danger,” Geib said. “Just three weeks ago a student was suspended from school for making derogatory comments. Yet for some reason or another, school board members, or prospective school board members, can pretty much say whatever they want to say.”
Like Connell, Geib urged parents to keep showing up
“You folks can do everything. Vote people out of office, you can come to meetings. you can hold people accountable,” he said. “But staying quiet simply says you accept it.”
Silvia Marelli, who has a 6th-grade child in Palmyra schools, spoke during the meeting condemning Gilligan’s comments. Taking Geib’s comments to heart, she said she plans to keep attending meetings.
“I’ll be here on the 19th,” she said of the next board meeting.
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