In Your Opinion: BOE Member Patricia Stanley Should Resign

By Erik Ransom, Somerset.

An Open Letter to Ms. Patricia Stanley of the Franklin Township Board of Education:

I attended last night’s Board of Education meeting, which was devoted almost entirely to the issue you created surrounding Mr. Potosnak’s lovely, moving Graduation speech. You sat, as stoically as you could, and listened to almost 40 people vehemently disagree with you. I often watched your face as the jabs were directed your way and, at a certain point, I thought about how brave it was to sit at the focal point of such a barrage. I imagined what might have been going through your head and that you were just biding your time until your turn to speak, when you would apologize, retract your call for Mr. Potosnak’s resignation, and we would all have a heart-warming Hollywood ending with lessons learned and new friendships forged. Apparently, I have a fanciful imagination, because in reality you responded as if you hadn’t heard a word of what the public had just said to you. You maintained your position and claimed your right to an opinion which your neighbors overwhelmingly informed you is homophobic, anachronistic and unrepresentative of our progressive, 21st Century community. Yes, ma’am, you certainly have a right to your opinion. But freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences, and you are a public official who has expressed, maintained and defended a bigoted view.

In defense of your unpopular position, you spoke of the timelessness of decorum. The assumption, I suppose, being that Mr. Potosnak’s mention of his own sexual orientation was a breach thereof? But decorum is not timeless or universal. You weren’t wearing a corset behind the board table, some of the gentlemen in attendance were in their shirtsleeves and “The love that dare not speak its name,” can be sung to the tune of the National Anthem, now. Gay marriage passed in the Supreme Court. That’s the reality, and Mr. Potosnak mentioned it as a landmark of progress which the majority of our community (Particularly the generation being addressed at the ceremony) believes it was. You disagree? Fine. By why go so far as to call for his resignation? Was anything he said that offensive to you? I truly don’t understand why you have yet to rescind that petty, melodramatic request. You brought this issue, which is out of all rational proportion, to the Board of Ed and then you played the victim when that board acted with transparency and made it public. I saw the heads shaking in the crowd, I heard the whispers of, “She just doesn’t get it.” “Did she hear anything we just said?” And, as impressed as I’d been with your courage at sitting through your own verbal Ides of March, I realized you hadn’t been listening at all. And then I was embarrassed for you.

You had only two lukewarm supporters, if you could even call them that. One was a public commenter, who was troubled that this was about “Ed’s speech” and that Mr. Potosnak’s oratory had upstaged the graduation itself. I would say that was also because of you, Ms. Stanley. You singled out his speech and brought it to our attention. So, even though this commenter’s complaint seemed to be directed at Mr. Potosnak, I would say, like most of us, her issue actually lies with you. Your other tepid
abettor was Dr. Presley of the Board, who was understandably frustrated that this controversy derailed the other important work which your council should be addressing. While I understand her vexation, I think she underestimates the import of this matter and the ignorance that your statements before and during this meeting represent. The comments you made, and that excessive call for Mr. Potosnak’s resignation, could only come from a firm foundation of bigotry. You are more comfortable when gay people are closeted and you’re bold enough to say so in public. You are certainly entitled to that opinion. As I am entitled to the opinion that you, having learned nothing from this maelstrom you’ve engendered, should resign. I’m not sure if you paint yourself as some lone soldier fighting uphill against the moral decay of the world, but I see you more as an intransigent regressive with a flair for theatrics. I am embarrassed to have you on a Board that represents the community in which I am proud to have grown up and I hope your exclusionary mindset doesn’t harm the morale of the LGBTQ students under your care.

I had hoped, as an elected member of the Board of Education, you would be open to being educated yourself. If you took nothing from the thoughtful words with which your community gifted you last night, I’m certain none of what I’m saying here will penetrate your quixotic armor. Even so, it is my firm belief that you missed a golden opportunity for atonement in front of your community. You squandered that chance and disgraced yourself. You expressed no modicum of regret or comprehension as to why your petty crusade against Mr. Potosnak is so offensive to so many people. I would like our community to let our LGBTQ students know that bigotry and exclusion are not acceptable on our Board of Education. I hope that other members of our community and the Board of Ed will join Ms. Walton-McCleod and myself in calling for your resignation and I hope that you will tender it to Mr. Potosnak with an effusive, overdue apology.

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