CANDIDATE KRISTIN LORD.jpg

Kristin Lord

BOYERTOWN — Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition asking the Boyertown Area School Board to prevent a primary election winner from serving because of online comments they believe are racially insensitive.

The petition alleges that Kirstin Lord, 21, of Earl Township, posted the comments during a Facebook exchange.

Before residents spoke on the issue during Tuesday night’s school board meeting, board President Brian J. Hemingway said the board has no control over the election process.

And Lord, who was the top vote-getter in the Republican primary and finished second in the Democratic primary for a District 1 seat, told MediaNews Group that she has no plans to withdraw from the race. She apologized for the comments.

Lord, a 2018 Boyertown High graduate, captured the Republican nomination for one of two seats for the region representing Bally, Boyertown and Bechtelsville, and Colebrookdale, Earl and Washington townships.

After the primary results were reported, Trey Yarnell, 23, a 2016 Boyertown graduate, started the petition at change.org.

By Wednesday, 4,820 people had signed it.

“I thought I would get 500 signatures,” said Yarnell, who has moved to Greensboro, N.C., where he works in an automotive shop. “This spiraled way ahead of what I was thinking would happen.”

Online comments

In the posts that have since been removed, Lord questioned an unidentified commenter whether a racial epithet directed toward white people is offensive. She appeared to be equating that epithet with one directed toward Blacks. In some posts, she referred to Blacks with an outdated term.

During an interview with MediaNews Group on Tuesday, Lord said she believes all lives matter, including Black lives.

“The posts on Facebook were a year ago,” she said.

She said she agrees the epithet directed at Blacks is offensive but was unaware the other term also was offensive.

Lord said she is receiving hate messages online and when she is out in public.

“All of the hate I am receiving is making me stronger,” Lord said.

Lord said she attended a cyberschool in 11th and 12th grade through the Boyertown district.

After graduation, Lord went to Lincoln Technical Institute, Philadelphia, where she received a diploma in medical assisting. She works as a registered medical assistant.

Yarnell said he started the petition after people who graduated from Boyertown between 2016 and 2018 and live in the area contacted him about Lord’s posts.

Yarnell, who grew up in Bechtelsville, said he does not know Lord but is concerned that the posts make it inappropriate for her to serve on the school board.

“I want to protect minority students and the community,” he said. “I do not mean any harm or ill will to her.”

Yarnell said he was saddened this occurred after Boyertown has made a concerted effort to become a No Place for Hate School, which is an Anti-Defamation League designation that aims to prevent hatred, bias and bullying.

Public comments

At the end of the school board meeting Tuesday night, Hemingway called for public comments.

Nicole Zelcs, a candidate who lost the Region 1 primary race to Lord, warned the school board that a candidate — whom she did not name — had made disturbing comments on social media posts that are uneducated, immature, racist and toxic.

Zelcs said she believes board members who supported that candidate were unaware of her posts.

“Silence is endorsement,” she said, concluding her three minutes of comments.

Jane Stahl, a former English teacher and resident of Region 1, said she had serious concerns that Boyertown remain as a No Place for Hate district.

“Please try to remember this,” Stahl said. “You have to keep control. My advice is to ask the people who cannot control hate to resign.”

Board member Lisa Hogan asked the board to reaffirm its no-hate policy.

“Racism is not political. It’s a social issue, and we should not condone it,” Hogan said.

Hogan, commenting to MediaNews Group earlier as a resident and not as a board member, said Lord is not qualified to serve on the board.

“She is a young person with a lot of life,” Hogan said. “Hopefully, she reflects that it’s not OK to be intolerant of others.”

When contacted by MediaNews Group, Louise Doscow, a public education advocate and founder of Boyertown Area Unity Coalition, said Lord should not be on the board because of her comments.

Jon Emeigh of New Hanover Township, who won the Democratic primary in Region 3, also told MediaNews Group that it is unfortunate that national issues, such as race relations, have seeped into local school board races.

“This is creating a huge divide,” he said.

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