Bucks County school board president calls Black Lives Matter ‘anti American’

Cheerleaders perform at a Neshaminy Redskins basketball game on Jan. 15, 2019. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Cheerleaders perform at a Neshaminy Redskins basketball game on Jan. 15, 2019. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Amid criticism from the teachers’ union, a fellow board member, and residents, Neshaminy School Board President Steve Pirritano is defending a comment he posted to Facebook that calls the Black Lives Matter organization “Marxist, anti family, anti American.”

Pirritano, who became board president in January, has said his opinion was directed at the Black Lives Matter organization and not the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement and the organization, he told the Bucks County Courier Times, are “two very separate and distinct things.”

Lifelong Bucks County resident Michelle Powell finds that logic confusing. To her, there’s no discernible difference between the Black Lives Matter organization and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I’m not really sure exactly what he’s referring to in that matter,” she said.

Either way, Powell, a graduate of Neshaminy High School, thinks Pirritano’s “off-base” comments should cost him his post as school board president.

“The Black Lives Matter movement is all about family values. It’s about Black mothers wanting to feel safe to let their son go to the store and get a soda or some candy. And Black fathers not having to have the conversation with their sons or daughters about the special things they need to take into account when interacting with a police officer,” said Powell.

“This forces me to call into question how can he be expected to make fair and unbiased decisions, which surround issues involving diversity and equality, in the Neshaminy School District schools,” she added.

Pirritano did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Wednesday.

Marty Sullivan, the immediate past president of the school board, also declined comment.

Sullivan, who remains a board member, said the body is not planning to issue a statement in response to Pirritano’s comments.

Roughly halfway through a school board meeting on Tuesday, fellow school board director Adam Kovitz criticized Pirritano’s Facebook post, telling him it was “deeply hurtful, offensive, and dangerous.”

“While Mr. Pirritano is certainly welcome to his own personal opinions, I proudly support BLM and want to assure the students, parents, faculty and entire Neshaminy community that in no way does he speak for all of us on the board,” said Kovitz while reading from a prepared statement.

Pirritano did not respond to Kovitz’s remarks.

Tara Huber, president of the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that Pirritano’s “political and religious views regarding Black Lives Matter are his own and he does not speak for all educators.”

“We have confidence in our certified staff and administrators to be the leaders in unifying our community and to continue to create diverse, inclusive and safe spaces for all of our students to learn, grow and thrive,” wrote Huber.

Bucks County is 88% white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In an email, a spokesperson said the “Neshaminy School District does not have any comment about this matter at this time.”

Pirritano’s position on the Black Lives Matter organization was revealed in his response to a Facebook post from conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, which features a quote from San Francisco Giants pitcher Sam Coonrod regarding Black Lives Matter.

“I’m a Christian, so I just believe that I can’t kneel to anything besides God. I just can’t get on board with a couple things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter and how they lean towards Marxism,” said Coonrod.

D’Souza’s post includes a photo of Coonrod standing on the field as teammates kneel on either side of him.

In response, Pirritano said the pitcher was “a thousand percent correct.”

“BLM is a Marxist, anti family, anti American organization. Their mission statement says it all. You want to stand up for Life that’s a all encompassing position. BLM is a racial organization that wants nothing to do with inclusion,” he wrote.

Pirritano told the Courier Times he made his comments based on the part of the BLM website that outlines their beliefs, part of which reads:

“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

This is not the first time Pirritano has waded into controversy.

For more than a half-century, Neshaminy High School has called its athletic teams a word widely regarded by Native Americans as a racial slur.

Many residents, including Pirritano, support keeping the nickname — even after an NFL team with the same name decided to scrap its mascot amid protests against racial injustice following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

As of December, the district had spent roughly $435,000 defending the team name since 2013.

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