BISD removes user comments online
An investigation by The Examiner has revealed that BISD’s Facebook page administrator has removed from the page several comments that expressed less than positive feelings some Beaumonters have regarding the recent FBI investigation into the school district’s finances and comments made to an MSNBC correspondent by BISD Board President Gwen Ambres.
In an October report by MSNBC’s Zachary Roth titled “Breaking Black: The right-wing plot to split a school board,” which was linked to from a post on the BISD Facebook page Nov. 18, Roth stated, “Alleging mismanagement and cronyism … a group of white conservatives has used a series of audacious political and legal maneuvers to try to seize control of the board from its black majority. The attempted power grab is just one flash-point in a bitter and racially charged feud over control of the school board.” Later in the story, Roth indicates that issues of contention within the school board have been seen by the “black majority” as racist. He asserts, “To the board’s black members, the anger over the electrician (Calvin Walker), the concern to keep the high school, the legal power plays and attempts to oust them, the waves of vitriol at public meetings, seem like a pattern.”
Roth quotes Ambres as voicing agreement with that assessment: “We have all these things lining up, and at some point you gotta say, hey, this is racist.”
Comments in response to the article on the MSNBC website from angry citizens blasted Roth’s story for glossing over what they see as the real issues plaguing the troubled school district and implying the fight to change the way trustees are elected and other disputes were racially motivated. One commenter wrote, “Citizens of Beaumont are concerned with the education of our children and tax dollars being used in a fiscally sound manner. Just because you disagree with the members on a school board who happen to be black doesn’t make for racism or racists.”
Another directly addressed Roth: “As a Beaumont resident, Hispanic mother of children attending the local school district, I find your article extremely one sided. Yes, there is racial animosity, and that is unfortunate and shameful BUT that is NOT what this is about! The efforts to clean up the board began after the corruption and mismanagement became rampant. The problem is the mismanagement and corruption.”
BISD’s Facebook post
BISD’s Facebook post promoting the Google+ Hangout panel discussion of the story prompted similar comments, and someone with administrative powers over the page took action to get rid of several comments made in response to the post, according to some who say their posts were deleted. One of those people is BISD Board Trustee Mike Neil.
On the evening of Dec. 1, Neil posted a comment on the Facebook page BISD Board Watch concerning comments he left on BISD’s page about the panel discussion that included Ambres. One of Neil’s deleted posts read, “As I have posted three times already, and all three have been deleted, this article and the panel discussion are an embarrassment to everyone in Beaumont. ‘Breaking Black?’ Give me a break.”
In his Dec. 1 Board Watch post, Neil wrote, “On the Beaumont ISD Facebook page they have the video of Gwen on MSNBC. I have left five comments, each of which has been deleted. My comments were about how bad of an article Zack Roth did. Maybe everyone should go to their page and comment. I say let’s swamp them with thoughts.”
Pam Shelander said she too posted a comment that was taken off the BISD Facebook page. On Dec. 2, a post that still appeared as of Dec. 4, she asked via comment, “Where did my comment go?”
Niq Hunter said he posted a comment on Dec. 2 that no longer appears on the BISD Facebook page. His comment scolded the district for “publicizing” the “Breaking Black” article, whose premise he denies. He called the story “biased” and said it did nothing positive for Beaumont.
In the comment that no longer appears on BISD’s Facebook page, Hunter wrote, “This story makes our community look bad, not as bad as a federal investigation, TEA [investigation], dept of agriculture investigation and the superintendent’s newsletter being plagiarized.”
Hunter said he was “blown away” that BISD’s Facebook administrators deleted his comment. He posted a second comment after realizing the first had been taken down.
BISD’s Facebook page does include a note regarding rules for posting comments. According to its policy, “All posting of comments on this page are at the discretion of the page administrators. The intent of this policy is not to keep any negative or critical information from being posted, but to protect the privacy and rights of BISD staff and students. Naming specific employees or students in a negative way will not be allowed (and is just generally rude).”
Rules also include language disallowing posts that “are considered likely to offend or provoke others. … Nobody likes a bully.”
BISD spokesperson Nakisha Myles said she does not understand why the comments were deleted.
“I know I haven’t deleted any comments,” Myles said. “I can’t tell you who deleted anything because I can’t see who deleted messages. I didn’t, and I don’t think anyone else has.”