Spring Grove board member apologizes at meeting
A crowd attended the Spring Grove Area School District's school board meeting on Monday, some to express dissatisfaction and others support for board member Matthew Jansen.
The outcry comes after the Rev. Christopher Rodkey received a phone call from Jansen on June 11 in response to a sign outside of St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Dallastown, which wished a "blessed Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors." Jansen was recorded in a voicemail saying that he was "shocked" by the "despicable," "unbelievable" sign and that Islam is a "godless," "pagan" religion.
Rodkey had suggested Jansen, who will serve as a delegate to next month's Republican National Convention in Cleveland and has said he intends to vote for Donald Trump, is unfit for his duties on the school board after the comments.
Jansen posted a photo of the sign on his Facebook and Twitter accounts with the church's phone number.
Superintendent Richard Lombardo read the Spring Grove's diversity statement to the crowd and read aloud the official statement that was released by the school district earlier Monday.
Board President Cindy Huber gave Jansen an opportunity to give a statement to the board and the audience, during which he offered his "deepest apologies."
"I know what I did was wrong," he said. "It was a knee-jerk reaction that really muddied the district, and it was certainly not backed by anyone in the district."
Afterward, the public was given the opportunity to comment. Susan Korsnick, of Jackson Township, was the first to speak, and began by calling for Jansen's resignation, referencing a change.org petition that had garnered more than 500 signatures at the time of the meeting.
"Ladies and gentlemen, there is no room for harassment and discrimination in Spring Grove," Korsnick said. "Will you as a governing body stand by his extreme viewpoint. or will you stand by your diverse students and families? What he did was at best irresponsible and at worst fear-mongering."
Ann Seitz-Brown, who identified herself as a Spring Grove borough resident as well as a district taxpayer, alumna and parent, also addressed the board. She asked not for Jansen's resignation or removal, but to ensure that learning comes from the recent events, in hopes that something good will come from it.
"You are in a position of power and authority, and the comments you make influence people and have an influence on our kids," Seitz-Brown said. "I ask there be some way to follow up with what's going on."
One Spring Grove resident was there in support of Jansen, although he didn't speak at the meeting. Joss King carried a sign that read "The First Amendment protects all speech." He spoke with Jansen after the meeting ended, offering his support and saying that the church's sign was uncalled for.
"The sign was in poor taste," King said to a group of reporters after the meeting was finished. "My sign applies to the pastor who put that sign up by the road, but it also applies to this gentleman for speaking his mind."
After the meeting ended, Jansen said that he would take time to consider resigning from the board, but at this point, he has no intentions of doing so. He said that he hoped something good would come out of this situation.
"The last thing I wanted to do was hurt any students or administrators," Jansen said.