The school board member who posted inflammatory messages about two Muslim congresswomen has resigned from the board of directors on the New Jersey School Boards Association and decided to not run for re-election in November.
Daniel Leonard, a Toms River Board of Education member, came under recent fire for posting a photo of Rep. Ilhan Omar with the caption “Terrorist…100%” and writing “my life would be complete if she/they die” above a photo of Rep. Rashida Tlaib on his personal Facebook page.
“The resignation of Daniel Leonard from the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) Board of Directors is a welcome victory in our fight against hate and anti-Muslim bigotry,” read a statement from Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization.
“Violent, dehumanizing, anti-Muslim rhetoric like the kind Leonard shared on Facebook threatens the safety of American Muslims, particularly children, and is wholly incompatible with the NJSBA’s mission to promote the achievement of ‘all students,’” it continued.
Leonard, whose term on the Toms River school board expires this year, said he was not seeking re-election to the local Board of Education because he didn’t want to compromise the integrity of his family or the progress the board made.
“As an elected official I am held to a higher standard – Yes! While I may have been provocative – regrettably ignorant in this case, I never called for anyone’s death as was spun in an attempt to frame the argument by my opposition,” he wrote on his Team Leonard Facebook page.
Leonard resigned from the NJSBA on July 29.
Three days earlier, on July 26, the executive committee of the NJSBA provided a statement, condemning the messages and saying it had been asked by the public and its own members to remove Leonard from his position on their Board of Directors.
“The content of the social media messages at issue is abhorrent. It does not represent the beliefs of our association. Nor should it ever reflect the values of a local board of education member,” the statement said.
Toms River school board President Joseph Nardini called on Leonard to resign last week, as did multiple people present at the board of education meeting last week. Leonard, however, refused to resign, saying he would not be “bullied into resignation” by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which also called for him to step down.
Superintendent David Healy also issued a statement last week on Thursday in response to the scandal. He stopped short of calling for Leonard’s resignation, but said the district does not support the content of his posts.
“Rest assured, despite the recent attention given to these unfortunate messages, I will continue to ensure that Toms River Regional Schools embodies strong character, integrity, and the best that public education has to offer,” it said.