Oxford School Board member’s social media posts draw scrutiny, criticism04/11/2022 05:12PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The social media posts of Oxford School Board member Michael Blessington came under scrutiny during the board’s meeting on March 15, when several people called for his resignation during the public comment period. These district residents cited numerous social media posts shared by Blessington, as well as his extreme right-wing partisanship illustrated by those posts, as the reasons why he should not continue to serve on the school board.
Blessington was elected to the school board in November of last year and joined it in December. Several of the audience members pointed out that Blessington’s social media posts are public and can be viewed by Oxford students and teachers, who may find them to be offensive or disrespectful.
Kristina Stephen, a resident of Upper Oxford Township, outlined a few of Blessington’s posts that she found most objectionable. She explained, “A photo meme Mike Blessington posted to his social media account shows Kyle Rittenhouse seated behind a sign which reads, ‘My 3 shots were more effective than Fauci’s.’ Kyle Rittenhouse was a 17-year-old child when he shot and killed two men and injured a third. Mr. Blessington’s comment above this meme reads, ‘Thank-you sir.’ To a 17-year-old child. Think about that. This man serves on our school board.”
Stephen cited another Blessington social media post that touted celebrating “White Pride Month” that could be viewed as very disrespectful by minority students in the school district, especially when coupled with other posts that Blessington had made.
“Mike Blessington posted a meme saying, July is #WhitePrideMonth. Celebrate the beauty of our race. His comment above this meme reads, ‘unless you hang out in the sun all weekend,’ Stephen explained.
Niki Bulger also expressed concerns about the White Pride Month post that was made in July of 2021. She said that Blessington has “posted plenty of hate on his public social media.”
Bulger mentioned a number of other social media posts that were problematic. In March of 2021, she said, Blessington shared a post that said that illegal immigrants and their children should be bussed right to Delaware, DC, Chicago, and California. On another occasion, Blessington shared a post about the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that claimed that it was “nothing compared to Seattle, Portland, or Kenosha…” Those three cities were the locations of Black Lives Matter protests.
Bulger also highlighted posts about illegal immigrants. She explained, “On Twitter on September 9 2021, he posted: the infection rate goes up as illegal immigrants cross our borders. On Twitter on September 22, 2021, he posted, and I quote, ‘How is an illegal immigrant ever essential while Americans are sent home from work.’ I am sure everyone on this board and in this room can remember the horrible videos and images of refugees trying to flee for safety on the day the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan. Well, on Twitter on January 4, 2022, Blessington wrote, ‘Every illegal immigrant and asylum seeker from Afghanistan should be sent to Delaware.’”
Stephen talked about how Blessington used his social media accounts to politicize the coronavirus pandemic, including anti-mask rhetoric and divisive language.
“Mr. Blessington’s social media accounts repeatedly refer to the COVID-19 virus as the China Flu,” Stephen explained. “How he, especially, can condone such divisive language at a time when ethnically Asian people in this country are being targeted for hate crimes boggles the intelligent mind.”
She continued, “His social media further spends time defending the innocence of accused proponents of white supremacy—while at the same time stating that such an institution does not exist. And yet, we are expected to trust this man with the interests of the minority children in our district.”
Stephen and Bulger both identified a post made during the height of the pandemic that was disrespectful to teachers and the jobs that they are asked to do.
Stephen explained, “Responding to a U.S. Senator’s tweet calling for aid during the height of the pandemic, Mike Blessington tweeted, ‘The garbage workers who pick my freaking trash up risk their lives more than any teacher does.’
Bulger also mentioned that tweet and she talked about how inappropriate that comment is for a school board member to make when teachers contribute so much.
Bulger said, “I would like to personally thank every single teacher in Oxford Area School District, in Pennsylvania, and in this country for their hard work. COVID alone did, and still does, put them at risk, as does all of the other germs our children share with them at school, as does this nation’s very serious issue with violence and school shootings. I am not a teacher, but I would imagine that their safety and the safety of their students is always one of the top things on their minds. I would argue that Mr. Blessington has no idea what it is like to be a teacher and every board member should appreciate our teachers and understand what their job entails and the risks they take daily by just showing up to a school.”
She added, “It does not surprise me that the man who could not even educate himself on how many schools we have, nor the proper names of those schools, also is speaking badly about teachers. This school can’t function without our teachers, so I would suggest Mr. Blessington stop insulting them.”
Bulger also pointed out that Jennifer Kehs, who joined the school board at the same time as Blessington, has drawn widespread criticism for controversial comments about immigrants. Bulger said that if Blessington and Kehs aren’t willing to prioritize the needs of students, then they should resign rather than using the school board position to carry out a partisan agenda.
“Mr. Blessington rarely speaks up and often looks like he may be falling asleep sitting up there,” she said. “The community has noticed he appears to not want to be here. Masks are no longer required, the COVID vaccine is not required, and CRT is not being taught, so if any of the board members were only here to stop those issues and have no other interest in being on the board, then step down and resign. Every single board member should be focused on our children and our staff. If that is not your focus, then resign now. Jennifer Kehs and Michael Blessington have shown that our children are not their first priority, and I would like to ask them both to resign now.”
Stephen called on the school board to update the code of conduct for its members.
“The bylaws of this board in regard to code of conducted were adopted in 2006,” she said. “They have not been recorded as being updated since. I think it’s time to change that.”
Stephen concluded her remarks about Blessington by saying, “This man is helping to decide the health and safety plans for the district’s children and teachers. It’s time to raise our standards for Oxford. The children, teachers, and the community deserve better. Voters, we need to do better. Mr. Blessington, you need to resign.”