April post by Toms River Regional Board of Education member Daniel P. Leonard on his personal Facebook pageTOMS RIVER, N.J. — A New Jersey school board member will likely face an ethics investigation for sharing posts disparaging of Muslims, including two Democratic congresswomen, on his personal Facebook page.
The posts from Toms River Regional school board member Daniel Leonard include one that states, “my life would be complete if she/they die” over a photograph of a U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is Muslim.
School Board Attorney Stephan R. Leone said Tuesday that the comments on Leonard’s Facebook page “are totally inappropriate, not condoned by the Board of Education, and do not reflect the board’s attitude or opinions.”
Leonard, 42, of Beachwood, represents that town on the nine-member regional school board. He was elected to the board in 2016 and is seeking re-election in November.
Leone, the school board attorney, said that the board “will determine what school board ethics violations may have occurred, and we are going to take appropriate action.”
The attorney’s comments came after the New Jersey Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for Leonard to resign for sharing “racist and Islamophobic posts” on his Facebook account.
“The bigoted, hateful and threatening social media posts shared by this elected board of education official serve to disqualify him for any position that has responsibility for the safety, security and well-being of New Jersey’s diverse student body,” said CAIR-NJ Executive Director James Sues in a statement.
“The bigoted views expressed by Mr. Leonard have no place in an educational system that seeks to celebrate diversity and encourage students of all faiths and backgrounds to excel scholastically and to make positive contributions to our society.”
In addition to the post about Tlaib, CAIR-NJ highlighted two other posts from Leonard’s “D.P. Leonard” Facebook page.
One features a photo of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. — who is also a Muslim — with the comment, “Terrorist….100 percent.”
The third post is an image of a bruised Barbie doll in a head scarf. “Sharia Barbie, Comes with Jihab [sic], bruises, & Quran, Stoning accessories available for additional purchase.
Leonard said he would have no comment on CAIR-NJ’s press release or on Leone’s statement.
“If it’s on my Facebook page, you can use it,” he said. Leonard would neither confirm nor deny that he made the posts highlighted by CAIR-NJ.
The Board of Education is scheduled to meet Wednesday at Toms River High School North in an executive session followed by a public meeting at 7:30 p.m.
CAIR-NJ Executive Director Sues said the organization was alerted to the anti-Muslim posts in an anonymous email.
“He said his life will be complete if they die; that’s rather threatening,” Sues said. “He’s pointed to the two Muslim women in Congress. It’s obvious he has some pretty serious issues with Muslims.”
Tlaib and Omar were elected in November and are the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.
Last week, the two, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., were targeted for repeated attacks by President Donald Trump on Twitter and in campaign remarks and interviews.
The president ignited a firestorm July 14 when he suggested on Twitter that “they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” even though three of the four lawmakers were born in the U.S. and all four are American citizens.
Leonard, a staunch Trump supporter, is a decorated combat veteran who served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, and he’s previously told the Press that he is struggling with neurological-related health issues connected to his military service.
He is no stranger to controversy. He frequently insults or bashes those who challenge his viewpoints using his personal Facebook page or his “Team Leonard” campaign page.
“It’s reflective of the board, it’s not a good leadership attribute for our school children,” Leone, the attorney, said of the anti-Muslim posts. “We regret that Dan, who has otherwise served well, has found himself in these kinds of situations.”
The state education commissioner may remove a board member from office for violating the New Jersey School Ethics Act, according to state law. The commissioner could act after receiving a recommendation by the School Ethics Commission.
On July 6, Leonard was charged with reckless driving after witnesses said he chased another driver at a high rate of speed, lost control of his truck and skidded off Hooper Avenue, striking a tree, police said. A patrolman’s report described Leonard as “agitated” and “uncooperative.”