Talk of diversity at Spring Grove’s school board meeting

Alyssa Pressler
  • More community members spoke out about board member Matt Jansen at the most recent board meeting.
  • Jansen denounced the hate mail that student Amy Gunzelman has received.

Community members attended the Spring Grove Area school board meeting once again Monday evening to speak out about board member Matt Jansen, who is under scrutiny for controversial tweets.

Amy Gunzelman, right, and Delma Welch stand outside the Spring Grove Area School District administration building before a school board meeting on Monday, March 20, 2017, to protest board member Matt Jansen's controversial remarks on Twitter.

Amy Gunzelman, a junior at the high school who has spoken out about Jansen several times in the last year, talked about hate mail she received addressed to her home, saying she would not be giving her address at the beginning of her public comment, which is a board policy.

She went on to speak about Jansen, calling again for his resignation and stating she has a meeting with state officials about the situation.

“I have meeting with Pennsylvania Board of Education this week to discuss what can be done,” she said. “Myself and others will continue to show our disapproval.”

Gunzelman has said she asked the Spring Grove Area board to change the policy requiring speakers to state their addresses during public comments for the protection of those wishing to speak out on controversial matters. Board president Cindy Huber addressed the topic after public comments ended.

Spring Grove student receives hate mail after board meeting

“We’ve found it's common practice at all local school districts to ask for addresses,” she said. “We’ll look into a possible change for any students that wouldn’t give an address, but I do have to say it’s open record.”

Huber also read a statement at the beginning of the board meeting, again emphasizing that the board has no legal power to remove a board member except for serious criminal offenses. If people wish for the board to be able to take that sort of action, Huber suggested they reach out to elected officials in the General Assembly to change state laws.

In February, Jansen, who also was an elected delegate to the Republican National Convention, reportedly tweeted, “Well than this wetbacks family should be thrown out of the country” in response to an article from Breitbart, a conservative news outlet. The tweet was deleted soon after it was posted.

Spring Grove board member won't resign despite protests

Jansen has said his account was hacked, but he has not filed a police report regarding the situation.

Jansen also spoke at the end of the public comment section Monday, saying he was quick to publicly denounce the hate mail Gunzelman received.

“It’s terrible it happened to you,” he said, directly addressing Gunzelman in the audience. “I’m very sorry it did.”

Something mentioned throughout the meeting was the district’s recent Diversity Festival, which everyone seemed to agree was a success.

Superintendent David Renaut said the celebration was a public display of what the district believes in.

“I’m proud to say our staff and students model acceptance and understanding virtually every day,” he said at the beginning of his report.

Board member Eric Cable also talked about the festival, which he attended along with several other board members.

“We live in a nation that’s suffering from ethnocentric, xenocentric populism, and we need to push away from that,” he said after talking about a few things he learned at the celebration. “This festival was one way to do that. We’re a big melting pot and always have been. And I think people forget that.”