BOYERTOWN — Residents continue to publicly ask the school board to jointly denounce the racially insensitive comments made by a candidate for the board, but no vote has been taken as of the June 22 meeting
At issue are social media posts made by Kirstin Lord, 21, of Earl Township who won the Republican nomination for one of two seats open in the November election for Region 1, which represents Bally and Bechtelsville boroughs, and Colebrookdale, Earl and Washington townships.
Lord's friend and neighbor, incumbent Ruth A. Dierolf, a 16-year veteran school board member, won the Democratic primary for Region 1 and was the second vote getter in the Republican primary.
Incumbent Melody McWherter of Earl Township, currently the board vice president, and Nicole Zelcs of Colebrookdale Township, were the other two candidates in the Region 1 primary election.
Trey Yarnall is the 26-year-old Boyertown High School Graduate who started the online petition calling on Lord to be removed from the board if she wins the election; a petition which has, to date, collected more than 5,000 signatures.
On May 22, Yarnall posted a composite Facebook post showing various comments Lord made as she engaged in back and forth arguments online.
Within the text of those exchanges, Lord referred to Black people as "colored," and defended the word's use when informed that term is "offensive."
"Yet 'Blacks' can call us white crackers? How is that any different?" Lord replied in an online exchange.
In another exchange, Lord wrote "lately seeing the news, maybe they need to wake up and realize the encouragement of looting, rioting and violence toward innocent people is unnecessary and creating a stereotype for themselves as well as other colored individuals. So in a way, they are bringing it on themselves honestly."
In another reply, Lord wrote "Also the 'N' word simply just means a 'black or dark-skinned person' so if they get offended by being called that well that suckssf than for them i guess. That's what you told me anyway right?"
Lord also commented under a photo of a protestor holding a sign, "Black lives matter? What about us white people? Nah, we just don't matter."
In a May 27 article, reporter Holly Herman wrote that Lord said she has no intention of getting out of the race, and that Lord "apologized for the comments."
Zelcs has dropped out of the race, but has now twice asked the school board to condemn the comments Lord made on social media.
The first time she spoke was at the May 25 board meeting and the board hesitated to let her speak because she had been a candidate.
"This is political speech, this is not a political body," board member James Brophy said as Zelcs began, in apparent violation of the board rule which prohibits board members from responding to speakers.
When Zelcs noted she had lost the election and is not running in November, Brophy responded "you're campaigning for a write-in campaign." When Zelcs asked School Board President Brian Hemingway if Brophy was allowed, under board rules, to address her, he replied, "I am interested in what Mr. Brophy has to say."
What followed was a recess and reference to board solicitor Jeffrey Sultanik, who said the only policy that applies to a member of the public making a political speech relies on the discretion of the board president. Hemingway allowed Zelcs to speak at the May 25 meeting.
"Do we teach our children hate and bigotry, or love and diversity?" Zelcs asked.
Also speaking at the May 25 meeting was board member Lisa Hogan who said "racism is not political" and asked the board to issue a statement "condemning hate speech of any kind."
Zelcs was among several speakers who addressed the matter again at the June 22 meeting.
Nora Filowitz said Lord's election continues the impression "that Boyertown is full of racists and hate. Whether you agree with that or not, those statements raise some red flags for someone who will oversee decisions in our school district."
She noted that in 2006, "Boyertown became a "No Place for Hate" school district, a designation certified each year by the Anti-Defamation League. That designation was bestowed again in May.
Saying that "silence is endorsement," Filowitz said refusing to condemn Lord's comments "will undo all that our community" has done move away from hate.
"If you cannot, as adults, do the right thing, how can we expect our children to?" Filowitz asked.
Jon Emeigh, who is a school board candidate in the November election for Region 3, said the phrase "'One Boyertown' is dead. I guess for certain board members, 'No Place for Hate' does not apply when spoken by someone they support for political office."
"Once again," Emeigh said, "as has happened before, our town is being embarrassed over race issues, but I guess certain board members are beyond embarrassment."
"I worry about what we as a district, and community, truly stand for," resident Kristy Hart told the board Tuesday. "I ask you to denounce her words and stand up against racism."
Acknowledging Hemingway's statements that the school board does not determine who sits there, the voters do, Hart said "the community makes the choice, but you have the voice to lead the community the way that they need to go."
"As always, I denounce racism and I would ask us, as a board, to make a stand against it," McWherter said as the June 22 meeting wound down.
Hogan again said "I call on the board to denounce racism and hate speech."
Board member Brandon Foose noted that the U.S. government recently made Juneteenth, a celebration of the news reaching Texas that enslaved people had been declared freed, a federal holiday.
"And I think that's a good time to rededicate our institutions as a country and as a community to the principles of empathy and inclusion and always strive to do a better job that we actually meet the ideals that this country was established on."
No formal motion or vote regarding Lord's comments was made or taken.
MediaNews Writer Holly Herman contributed to this report.