A Campbell County School District trustee has apologized for sharing a Facebook post that prompted a strongly worded complaint from a former district teacher.
Linda Bricker shared a post Saturday that featured a photograph of former Democratic presidential nominee candidate Pete Buttigieg kissing his husband at a campaign event. The caption to the post says that “parents in America are struggling to explain President Trumps behavior” then pointing out that Buttigeig, who is gay, also displays inappropriate behavior for children to see.
In a letter sent to Superintendent Alex Ayers, Bricker and her fellow school trustees, Trey Sutherland calls Bricker out for what he calls “blatant discriminatory remarks on yet another marginalized community — the LGBTQ community — on social media.”
He writes that she “has a history of uploading social media posts that are aimed at further oppressing certain populations that are already feeling unwelcome in Gillette because of people like her.”
Because Bricker is an elected official and sits on the school board, she should be held accountable to not show a bias against LBGTQ students or their issues, he said in a phone interview.
The school district has a broad anti-discrimination policy in place, and trustees should reflect that publicly, Sutherland said.
Bricker posted an apology to her Facebook page Tuesday afternoon in response to Sutherland’s letter,
“It has been brought to my attention that my recent post was very offensive!” she wrote. “I want to give a public apology to everyone I offended. I mindlessly hit ‘share’ not even thinking of the firestorm it would create. I am so sorry for my inept thoughtlessness and hope you will accept my apology. I am deleting my Facebook accounts and will no longer be posting. Again, I am very sorry and will for this day forth use wiser judgment. It truly has been a huge mistake!”
A phone message left for Bricker wasn’t returned as of the time as of press time Wednesday.
School board Chairwoman Anne Ochs said she heard about Sutherland’s letter and Bricker’s apology late Tuesday evening. She said that holding an elected office makes anything a person puts out into the public fair game for reaction.
She said she heard that Bricker was upset by the reaction, which by coincidence also was her birthday.
“Honestly, from reading her apology, I think Linda, she is a kind-hearted soul,” Ochs said. “I cannot imagine that she meant to go out of her way to (offend anyone).”
She said the reaction to the Facebook post is a sign that trustees may need more training about how to use and deal with social media.
“Maybe we’re going to have to change our training a bit and include social media in there,” Ochs said.
She also said that if the board were to discuss the post, “any type of discussion like that would happen in the open.”
After seeing Bricker’s apology, Sutherland said he appreciated it, but believes she should resign from the school board. That’s because while she apologized for one offensive post, she has a history of sharing and expressing discriminating views through social media, he said.
She has shared other posts that target Buttigieg, along with one that depicts Bernie Sanders as part of the Holocaust and one that compares Sanders to Hitler.
Not all of her posts are controversial. Bricker also shares posts that reflect her Christian faith and show support for patriotism, the military and first-responders.
“I’m surprised she (apologized) so quickly and it might be a step in the right direction. However, I think the real harm is still what she believes and how she’s going to use her beliefs when she’s ultimately making decisions on the school board,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland, who is gay and now lives in Washington state, said he taught for four years in the Campbell County School District. He said expressing anti-gay views discourages LGBTQ students from bringing their concerns to trustees or administrators.
“I still think the school board isn’t a place for her to be,” he said. “We need leaders who are willing to speak up for those marginalized students and I don’t think she’s going to do that.”
The response to Bricker’s apology on her Facebook page was a mix of support for the school trustee and for Sutherland’s position.
“Linda, I’d like to accept your apology, but since you have posted other previous posts which target LGBTQ, Muslims and immigrants, it’s hard to think this was a mistake,” posted Stacie McDonald.
“Linda, I back you 100% and don’t you dare cave to people who do not share your conservative values,” wrote Jodi Williamsen. “Stay true to your morals and to God. You have just as much of a right to your opinion as they do.”
Ochs said she won’t ask Bricker to resign.
“That’s totally her call,” she said. “Everyone has a right to an opinion, but she does not speak for the board.
“Our board and our district and our teachers and our administration bend over backward to make this a safe and caring environment for kids. ... All kids. It’s not just for the ones who have black hair or brown hair or green eyes or brown eyes.”
Ochs said as an elected official, “people pay attention to your thoughts” and that “I believe we need to treat each other the way we expect our kids to be treated.”