Comments Prompt Statement

ST. MARYS — A recently elected St. Marys Board of Education member and the district's superintendent are at opposite sides of the spectrum regarding comments posted on an online forum last week.

On Monday afternoon, Superintendent Shawn Brown released a statement regarding a post made by School Board Member Bob Valentine on Grand Lake Chat — an online forum dedicated to topics around the Grand Lake St. Marys area. The post that was attributed to Valentine was on a thread about the St. Marys School District. The post, which was lengthy and in response to another poster's comments regarding teachers salaries in general, included the following: "Most teachers are in this school district because they want to be here. Sure, you can go to the inner city and possibly get a little more but take a look at the cost of living there, to say nothing of getting mugged, raped and your throat slit all for giving Brother Deonta a bad grade."

In his statement, Brown called the post "racially insensitive."

"The St. Marys City School District has been made aware that on Feb. 13 and 15, recently elected St. Marys School Board member Bob Valentine posted racially insensitive and completely inappropriate comments on a local social media website," Brown said in a statement.  "While Mr. Valentine stated in his post that 'all statements and opinions rendered by RWV ... are his own and do not reflect any opinion or position of the St Marys City School Board,' the district feels compelled to affirmatively state its displeasure and disappointment in Mr. Valentine's disturbing remarks.  His comments are contrary to our school's mission and, frankly, are an embarrassment to the district."

Brown said he issued the statement as a way to make sure the district was not associated with the comments.

"I think the comments at a very minimum are inappropriate and I don't want the school administration to be associated with the statements," Brown told The Evening Leader, noting he received comments regarding the post from union leadership, residents and other board members.

Valentine confirmed to The Evening Leader he made the post attributed to the screen name "RWV." Valentine said the comments are not racially insensitive and he did not view them as inappropriate.

"There were no racial comments made," Valentine told The Evening Leader. "I said on the website that when someone challenged me on that, that the only reason I used the name that I did is that I know people of multiple races that use that name ... That is not a racial statement in my opinion. It is a matter of fact that in the inner schools, they have problems with muggings and rapes ... It's a matter of fact, not a matter of race. It was never intended to be racial in its content and I chose that name in particular because I know both white, or Caucasian, and black people with that name."

Valentine said if he used another name in the post, he believes no one would have complained.

"They are injecting their own personal prejudices into the remarks," Valentine said. "I am not a prejudiced person nor am I a racial person."