Toms River school board member Dan Leonard said he won’t seek re-election, but has no intention of resigning from the board before his term expires. Jean Mikle, @jeanmikle
Daniel Leonard, the Toms River Board of Education member whose anti-Muslim social media posts have justifiably drawn local and national condemnation, said Monday he will not seek re-election when his term expires at the end of the year.
Sorry, that’s not good enough. He should step down immediately. If he refuses to do so voluntarily, the school board should instruct its attorney to seek every available avenue to force him out. If the board doesn’t have the guts and sense of decency to seek his ouster, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), should follow through on plans to file an ethics charge against Leonard to the state’s School Ethics Commission.
Leonard’s anti-Muslim posts, which he laughably claims are not anti-Muslim, but aimed at people who happen to be Muslim, are only the latest in his series of uncivil and bigoted posts unbefitting a public official.
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The post that triggered the latest outrage had a photo of Rashida Tlaib, a Muslim congresswoman from Michigan, along with the message, “my life would be complete if she/they die.” His defense, proferred on his “Team Leonard” Facebook page? “While I may have been provocative — regrettably ignorant in this case, I never called for anyone’s death as was spun in an attempt to frame the argument by my opposition.”
At a school board meeting last week, Leonard interrupted, smirked at and argued with several speakers who said his posts were despicable, damaging and should lead to his removal from office.
Defending the Tlaib post at the meeting, Leonard said, “the congresswoman is trying to shut down a federal agency of the government, right, so my point was, ‘let her starve.’ And I say it again, how is that offensive to Muslims. Just because she’s Muslim?”
At the very least, it demonstrated the kind of intolerance and bigotry that has become all too commonplace in America. Leonard’s post have long fit that mold. He uses social media to go after anyone who disagrees with him. He has three Facebook pages, an Instagram account and a channel on YouTube. Some of Leonard’s postings have been homophobic, and on at least one recent occasion, he repeatedly referred to a female critic as a “bitch,” and noted that “I held back on the C word so restraint is a trait I possess.”
Sadly, only one person on the Toms River school board has asked him to resign. And remarkably, school board attorney Stephan R. Leone actually praised Leonard for announcing he wouldn’t be seeking re-election. “Basically, we thank him for that, because I think that helps to resolve the controversy. We’ll see what further decisions Mr. Leonard makes. He seems to be doing the right thing for the right reason, that is, to remove the board of education from this controversy and to deal with it individually.”
Letting Leonard remain on the board perpetuates the controversy. And the decision about his future as a board member should be the school board’s, which has been given a shiny black eye by Leonard.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in New Jersey’s Code of Ethics for school board members that addresses the use of social media or conduct that could reflect poorly on the school district. That’s an omission that should be rectified immediately. There also is nothing preventing school boards from adding ethics provisions of their own. The Toms River school board, and other public bodies that have had to contend with the fallout from its members’ bigoted social media posts, should instruct their attorneys to draft language in their ethics code that can help put an end to this kind of destructive, divisive behavior.
This article originally appeared on https://www.app.com