⚪ A NJ school board member is accused of running a transphobic Twitter account

⚪ Collectively, the board says it rejects the ‘hateful ideas’ posted, then deleted

⚪ At issue is whether such social media posts violate a code of ethics members pledge to follow

 SPADEA REACTION: Attorney stands up for school board member against cancel culture

A school district, already wrestling with polarized public reaction to LGBTQ issues for months, is dealing with a transphobic Twitter account, allegedly run by an elected member of the school board.

On Monday, the board received evidence that the now-deactivated account was run by Rebecca Petersen, as submitted by the Flemington QTs — a trans community and social justice group.

A written, collective statement from the Hunterdon Central Regional High School Board of Education sent to New Jersey 101.5 said "we heard concerns during public comment about a Twitter account with transphobic and other distressing content.”

“Allegations have been made that a sitting member of our Board operates the account,” it continued, “The Board recognizes the gravity of this allegation and takes seriously its obligation to investigate.”

mamallama tweet screenshot, since deleted (courtesy Flemington QTs)
mamallama tweet screenshot, since deleted (courtesy Flemington QTs)

The joint statement also said:

“The Board and our Superintendent reject the hateful ideas posted in this account as harmful to children and adults in our community and to our school’s mission. These posts convey outright disdain and disrespect for our Board, our school, and our staff. Therefore, we believe these posts do not reflect how a board member should communicate about the district they serve.”

A request to Petersen for individual comment was not answered as of Friday.

💻 Board considers social media proof of whether Twitter account linked to member

In a letter presented to the board after a public statement at Monday’s meeting, the members of Flemington QTs presented social media content that they said linked Petersen to the now-deactivated Twitter account, including:

🔍 A variation of the Twitter handle in question — @mammallama — was used by an Instagram account that included Petersen’s name and the same profile photo as her active Facebook account — @becky.petersen.mammallama

That Instagram account has since been deleted.

🔍 The Twitter account @mammallama referenced “Hunterdon Central Regional High School (NJ)” and “Superintendent, Jeff Moore” in a few photos that criticized the inclusion of trans individuals in a Women’s History Month display.

🔍 A separate tweet from the account said it was their son’s school.

🔍 On Nov. 7, 2022, the Twitter account @mammallama referenced voting for themself, adding “Mama bears are coming for the school boards.”

🔍 Both the Twitter account @mammallama and Petersen have publicly referenced being a graduate of the Class of 1999 — and also attending University of North Carolina.

(Rebecca Robb Petersen via Facebook)
(Rebecca Robb Petersen via Facebook)

Among “hateful ideas” referenced by the board after receiving screenshots of tweets, now deleted:

💻 March 17 tweet from the Mamallama account misgendered federal government official, Admiral Rachel Levine, saying “Has Levine had his d**k sliced open like a banana and inverted yet? If not, he should really stfu”

💻 A day later, on March 18, the same Twitter account again referred to Levine, who is openly trans, saying “I might care what he has to say about transition after he slices his d**k like a banana and inverts it. Until then, he just a dude with long hair.”

Petersen among 3 newest members on Hunterdon Central Regional School Board

Hunterdon Central Regional High School serves the municipalities of Delaware Township, East Amwell, Flemington, Raritan Township and Readington, with about 2,575 students.

Among the board’s nine members, three members were newly elected in November.

Rebecca Petersen, Sue Duggan and Jerry Rymar ran together on a slate that was endorsed by the NJ Project and conservative blog Chaos and Control, which have criticized progressive LGBTQ policies.

Hunterdon Central Regional school board’s president and vice president are among three members whose terms expire December. Those seats will be on the November ballot.

The remaining three seats will be up for election in the fall of 2024.

Hunterdon Central Regional grappling with reaction to a student drag show in the fall

Hunterdon Central Regional High School made headlines this fall after an invite-only drag show put on by a student club.

People Understanding Love Serves Everyone organized the drag show event in late October “to provide a safe space for students to be themselves.”

Some critics, who have attended board meetings in the months since the show, voiced concern with how the event was handled “secretively” — while others said any drag show would be inappropriate in a high school setting.

NJ deals with social media posts by elected board members who took ethics pledge

Among issues raised in this and other cases across the state involving inflammatory social media posts by elected school board members, there is the question of whether such activity violates the code of ethics that board members pledge to follow.

“In today’s increasingly polarized society, opinions are strong and conversations can easily become fragmented, with both sides leaving a conversation feeling that their legitimate opinions have gone unheard," the New Jersey School Board Association addressed the issue in a 2018 post.

"In such times, board members often resort to Facebook or other social media to voice their concerns. Board members who feel such a need should exercise restraint in their social media postings, lest they run afoul of the School Ethics Act,” the NJSBA said.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

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