A school board member in Arkansas stands by disparaging comments she made on Facebook regarding a student advocate for LGBTQ rights, ArkansasOnline reports.
In a statement on Friday, Bentonville School Board member Rebecca Sue Powers defended herself against charges of cyber-bullying a local public school student. Though she insulted a child on a public Facebook page, Powers says her "comment was meant only for private discussion... I am sincerely sorry that these remarks became public, and I sincerely apologize for any hurt this has caused to any student who believes I was identifying them."
Powers argues in her statement that, "as usual in debates about homosexuality and cross-dressing, when these divisive issues are forced on school boards by those who wish to normalize harmful behaviors to impressionable children, supporters of these categories make accusations of 'bullying' when confronted by the truth."
"I am disappointed that the media has run a story that I have 'bullied' a student in (the Bentonville School District), when it is untrue," Powers clarifies to ArkansasOnline. "It is not 'bullying' to state an opinion that an unnamed student's behavior was 'rude and disrespectful,' or to comment on potential motivations for that behavior."
By way of background, the Bentonville School Board is considering the addition of "sexual orientation and gender identity" to the list of protected statuses under the school district's Equal Employment Opportunity policy. Reacting to a post about a pro-gay student protest on the "Protect OUR Children BPS" Facebook page earlier this month, Powers commented, "The young lady that… is heading this up is an atheist. She is also rude, and disrespectful. I had the displeasure of watching her at the Mary Beth Tinker event..."
Powers was apparently referencing a student named Victoria Mantel, whose mother, Paula Mantel, attended a school board meeting last week to denounce Powers' online treatment of her daughter.
Patheos reports that Victoria Mantel is not an atheist.
The Bentonville school district's employment policies for LGBTQ staff will be a topic of discussion at its upcoming board meeting at the beginning of next month.
Powers has attracted media scrutiny for not vaccinating one of her children against chicken pox while keeping him enrolled in public schools. Powers' home of "Northwest Arkansas has more unvaccinated schoolchildren than any other region in the state," ArkansasOnline reports.
According to Facebook, Powers is a member of groups "Liberty-Republicans USA" and "Conservative Arkansas," and was previously a marketing director at Chick-fil-A.