Americans are blocking out the friends and news sites that won’t confirm their views.
A school board president is under fire after a teacher claims the elected official called him an “anti-American Trump hating troll” and used profanity against him on Twitter.
The exchange occurred in a series of tweets between Kimberly Fisher, president of the Deer Valley Unified School District governing board, and Aude Odeh, an English teacher at Barry Goldwater High School.
Fisher has since said that she was defending herself from a “cyber bully” and had a right to as a “private citizen,” as she is only an elected official when she walks on school property.
Fisher tweeted June 3 about an article on President Trump that she claims was deceptive and “attempts to spin words to deceive Christians.” Odeh tweeted back, asking why she thought the article was deceptive when he didn’t see it that way.
The article in question cast Trump’s religious literacy in doubt based on a conversation he had with two Christian leaders days before his inauguration where he seemed confused about the difference between denominations.
A flurry of tweets and replies ensued in which the two debated the article’s content when another Twitter user, Nicholas Gearing, interjected with a Tweet about Trump’s “travel ban.”
At one point, Odeh said that there have always been tough screenings on immigrants, to which Fisher responded with, “Because you say so? Bulls–t,” following up with “You are an anti-American Trump hating troll no matter what you say it’s bulls–t.”
Board leader defends her free-speech rights
After the exchange, Odeh, a Palestinian-American Muslim, filed a petition on Change.org, saying that the school district should not have a board president who calls other people names. About 500 people had signed the petition as of Wednesday afternoon.
Reached by a reporter on Wednesday, Odeh declined to comment, stating he had been advised to not say much else. A Deer Valley district representative said the district would not be making a statement about the issue.
Fisher took a few moments Tuesday to address the controversy at the beginning of a regularly scheduled meeting of the governing board.
“The correspondence that occurred from an individual who had been trolling me on Twitter … at the time, though he’s claiming differently now, was from an individual on his private page as a private citizen, and I respect his …. First Amendment right. And I also reserve mine,” Fisher said.
Fisher said that, as soon as she walks through the doors of the District Office, she understands that she is an elected official. But she argued that, as soon as she left the building, she was once again a private citizen and had the right to defend herself.
The exchange has instilled a new “fear” in her children, according to Fisher, but she firmly stated that she would not resign.
“I would not ask a student who was bullied to apologize when they responded, even if their response was negative,” Fisher said. “I will not apologize for defending myself, even if it was not in the nicest manner.”
She said that Odeh was spreading false information on the online petition by including only snapshots of the Twitter exchange.
Fisher also advocated for more awareness about cyber bullying, stating that someone had sent her a video about a boy who committed suicide after he “had made one person angry (online) and they all attacked.” She requested a future agenda item detailing the school district’s bullying policies and programs.
“I think that we need to have a productive discussion from all directions,” she said.
Odeh, along with several others, read prepared statements to the school board, defending Odeh’s statements and admonishing Fisher for the lack of professionalism she displayed online.
“Name calling is something we learn is wrong in elementary school,” Odeh said. “As president of the board, she must realize her conduct in any public space, as her Twitter account was public at the time, must be held to the highest of standards.”
Fisher has since made her tweets private.
Push to replace official
Kathy Huntington, a friend of Odeh and a former employee of the Deer Valley district, said that while Fisher absolutely has every right as a private citizen to say what she wants, Fisher wasn’t acting as a private citizen on Twitter.
“When you list yourself as a school board president, you are no longer speaking as a private citizen,” Huntington said. “You’re representing your employers, you’re representing the people who elected you to that spot.”
Fisher’s tweets have shown disregard for the standard of conduct to which students and staff are held, Huntington said. While she was disappointed to see Fisher use profanity, Huntington said that was not the main issue.
“It was the almost knee-jerk reaction to call somebody Trump-hating and anti-American, which is appalling and had absolutely nothing to do with, I think, any part of the conversation,” Huntington said.
Huntington wants Fisher to resign and apologize to the school district. If not, she intends to file a petition to recall Fisher.
“She is in no way fit to lead the district,” Huntington said.
Fisher defended herself at the board meeting, claiming she was a victim of cyber bullying, but Huntington said Fisher was deflecting the attention away from her missteps and not holding herself accountable for her actions.
“I was disgusted by her comparing herself to children who were driven to suicide because of cyber bullying. That is such a profound example of complete lack of awareness or compassion,” she said.
In an emailed statement to The Republic, Fisher reaffirmed Wednesday that her conversation on Twitter was not with Odeh, nor was it about religion.
“At this point, they have a full cyber bullying campaign going with well over 300 tweets and attempts to make me out to look like someone I am not and I have the safety of my family to consider,” Fisher said.
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