A Palmyra Area School Board Director apologized on Thursday for divisive posts she made on Facebook that angered some in the community during a contentious election campaign this year.
Suzan Gilligan, who won a seat on the board in November, drew criticism during the campaign after several of her Facebook posts became public. Over the past several years, Gilligan posted on her 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 angered some in the community, and several parents asked the board at a meeting in November to refuse Gilligan her seat.
At the first board meeting for newly elected directors earlier in December, several other board members voiced their concern with the posts. Christine Fisher asked Gilligan to make a public statement on the posts.
Gilligan declined to say anything at that meeting, but did share an apology during Thursday’s meeting, according to a video a parent took, capturing most of her comments.
“I’m very upset with myself, that’s not who I am,” Gilligan said of the posts. “People who know me know that I love everybody, no matter what the color of their skin is, no matter what their religious preference is, no matter what their sexual orientation is … I am truly sorry.”
Gilligan said Friday she had been advised in the past to not comment on the posts, but she felt it was time to clear the air and try to move past the controversy.
“If these people would get a chance to get to know me instead of criticizing me, they would realize that my comments are not me,” Gilligan said. “I love all types of people, I will help anyone that I can.”
Although she said it’s not an excuse, Gilligan noted some of the posts were from six years ago, but most of the posts flagged by the Lebanon Daily News were from 2015 or 2016.
Gilligan said they don’t reflect who she is as a person now and who she was then, and that she probably wrote them “in the heat of the moment.”
Gilligan asked for people to accept her apology and forgive her for the posts.
“Everybody in their life has done something that they’re not proud of, ” Gilligan said. “Everybody has, I don’t care who you are. And that’s why people forgive each other.”
Gilligan ran on a slate with several other Republican candidates, including Mike and Karen Ludwig and Krista Barley, who were all elected to the board.
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Board member Larry Geib, who was re-elected in November, said he doesn’t think Gilligan’s apology will be enough to quell the division that has formed on the board.
Geib said he is concerned board members will have a hard time working together due to disagreements that have formed over Gilligan’s posts, and other issues that came up during the primary and general elections.
The controversy is also distracting residents from the important work the school board is doing, Geib said.
“The only way this can be solved is for her simply to take herself off the board,” Geib said. “Because there will always be that stigma. There will always be those questions.”
Gilligan said she will not resign from the board, and she isn’t concerned about working with board members who have criticized her posts. She encouraged them to get to know her better. She said she ran because she wanted to do good for the community, students and taxpayers.
Balancing the budget, giving kids “the education they deserve” and making them feel safe at school are a few of her priorities.
“I hope the other board members can try to get past all of this, to get to know me,” Gilligan said. “It’ll be a good four years, I’m looking forward to it.”
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