UPDATED: GOP committee calls for Groton Board of Education member to resign over Facebook comments
Groton — Multiple people have contacted the Board of Education to call for member Gretchen Newsome's resignation, after she made comments on social media, including: "The violence by the peaceful protestor continues. How many lives will be lost over people acting like uneducated savages."
Board Chairwoman Kim Shepardson-Watson said she received multiple emails asking for Newsome's resignation, following a post Tuesday evening on the Groton Parents Group Facebook page of comments Newsome made in June on another Facebook page.
Newsome, a Republican, apologized Wednesday but said parts of conversations she had months ago on social media were being taken out of context. She said she does not plan to step down.
"I am really sorry if I hurt anybody," Newsome said. "I am wholeheartedly sorry. I never meant to hurt anybody, and I would never say anything consciously mean, but people did not read the entire conversations."
The Republican Town Committee Executive Committee voted Wednesday night to recommend that Newsome resign from Board of Education.
Superintendent Michael Graner said the comments do not align with the values and beliefs of the board, which has done everything possible over the last several years to promote an environment in which diversity is respected and equity is provided for all children, including building a new consolidated middle school.
He said the Board of Education will meet with Newsome on Thursday and try to understand the context of some of her comments and pursue its options.
"At the very least, it's to make sure that the community knows that the Board of Ed does not share the same values or the same viewpoints that are being said by Gretchen," Shepardson-Watson said. She added that the board is embracing anti-racist language, behaviors and actions, and the district has a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee composed of staff and board members.
Newsome had commented on June 12 on Uncle Sam's Misguided Children Facebook page under a lengthy post that concludes "BE PROUD TO BE WHITE! It's not a crime YET...But getting very close!"
She responded to another person's comment in the thread, writing: "Trump has yet to load law abiding citizens into trains and death camps. The violence by the peaceful protestor continues. How many lives will be lost over people acting like uneducated savages. If Trump were a dictator I think I might sleep better. Then this chaos may be done and over."
"Read some history books," she continued. "Many of the statues being destroyed were good men. They have desecrated the memorial to black northern civil war veterans. Random spray painting in cemeteries. If I had the power I would arrest these thugs who have taken over businesses and neighborhoods. Locked the up and sorted it out later. Good people are being hurt. This is America. One Nation! A melting pot. Your (attitude) is heart breaking..."
Newsome said Wednesday that she made the comments after people defaced the monument to a Black Civil War military unit, the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial.
She said her comment about Trump was meant sarcastically. But she said she is upset that Democratic governors and mayors aren't doing anything.
"There are people that have lost their livelihoods," she said. "They've lost their businesses. They've lost their homes. They've lost their children to random gunshots."
Other posts shared include a statement that: "When I chose to run for Board of Education I never thought we would be back to 1970. I went to school in a black neighborhood. We tried to live together I made friends. 3rd grade I was introduced to hate, hate I could not understand. Based on my skin color."
She continued, "6th grade brought bigger challenges that had existed in the middle school since my (Grandfather) attended. I was small. White and an easy mark. If mom made my lunch it was taken if I had lunch money it was taken. Once I had neither I was tripped pushed knocked down stairs."
"Now I'm listening to a large group of people who think that behavior was justified because my teenage parents had more than they did," she wrote. "Guess being white we don't get hungry."
Newsome, a Republican who was first elected to the Board of Education in 2015, said she joined to make Groton a fair place for all children, after she saw inequities in the school while working as a substitute teacher. She said she also returned to her school to teach there to make a difference.
The Groton Democratic Town Committee issued a news release Wednesday that "Groton Democrats feel it is our responsibility to share with Groton voters that one of the elected Board of Ed members has been making posts on social media espousing views that we reject."
"We feel a person holding these views cannot represent a student community as diverse and inclusive as ours," the news release states. "Voters need to know that the Republican Party endorsed her. We hope that these views are not shared and that they will not remain silent, again, in the face of more evidence that there is a problem. We look forward to this matter being resolved thoughtfully and in the best interests of our students and remind voters to think twice before casting your vote."
The Groton Republican Town Committee's Executive Committee issued a statement that the comments by Newsome, a member of the RTC, do not align with its members' beliefs.
"The Groton RTC does not support the language used to describe peaceful protesters, and in fact many RTC members have been engaged with the peaceful protests held here in our home town," the committee said. "We certainly do not support the un-American idea of any authoritarian government including dictatorships. We have encouraged Gretchen to work with the Groton Board of Education to identify the appropriate path forward."
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