A school board member from Whidbey Island in Washington state is threatening to take legal action against a local activism organization made up of mostly high school students over a Facebook post.
He claims the post falsely accuses him and his wife of playing a role in the theft of a Black Lives Matter banner from the local high school.
South Whidbey School Board member Damian Greene said a Facebook post made last month by United Student Leaders, or USL is libelous. The post, he said, insinuates that Greene and his wife Maureen had something to do with a Black Lives Matter banner being stolen and the vandalization of a congratulatory graduation banner.
The below is the post from USL details the vandalized graduation banner, as well includes a photo of Maureen Greene holding a sign at a protest that states, “Take down the banner.”
The South Whidbey Record reported that the BLM banner went missing after Maureen led a demonstration with around 140 community members to protest the sign’s presence at the school, as well as recent additions she and the group opposed to the school curriculum.
USL posted a message soon after the incidents involving the banners on its Facebook page that asked community members to attend a school board meeting on June 23. The USL, which is comprised of mostly South Whidbey High School students, suggested people at the meeting pose questions like, “What was Maureen and/or Damian’s role in the stealing and vandalizing of the banners?”
Annie Philp, a student at South Whidbey High School and a founder of USL, told the Record that the post wasn’t meant to suggest the Greenes played a role in either incident. She said the group “wanted community members to acknowledge how Maureen and Damian may have instigated what happened, because both have repeatedly called for the banners to be removed.”
“We wanted answers,” she added.
Greene told the Record he is consulting with an attorney to discuss legal action against USL over the Facebook message, though he said he has not yet taken legal action.
He provided a statement to the paper about the matter. It read, “Had the defamatory post stated ‘Did’ Greene have a role, rather than ‘What WAS’ Greene’s role, the post would not have been libel.”
“Certainly, nobody desires to enter into litigation. Hopefully it is not needed to fully learn the lesson here,” Greene also wrote. “This issue could have been resolved and still can, by USL simply removing the post.”
Philp confirmed told the Record that USL had not been contacted by an attorney regarding the post. The message has also not been removed from Facebook.
Greene has said the Black Lives Matter banner violates political neutrality in public schools, but the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said in a 2020 statement that Black Lives Matter terminology alone does not equate to political activity.
Both the Black Lives Matter and congratulatory banners were replaced at the school after member of the community made donations to replace the signs. An LGBTQ+ pride banner was also added to the school property’s fence.
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