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York, Pa. – Pennsylvania parents said they were disappointed and felt intimidated after a school board member representing them argued that he doesn’t work for taxpayers.
York Suburban School Board member Richard Robinson said in a York Dispatch op-ed published last week he was “elected by people who voted to represent you” and called parents who publicly questioned mask mandates “charlatans.”
“I felt belittled. I felt bullied,” Brian Sigley, who has four children attending school within the district, told Fox News. “As a parent, you shouldn’t be belittled when you’re concerned about your children and their future.”
Nick Spagnola, who has a first-grader and a second-grader in the school district, told Fox News the op-ed “seems to be like a personal attack on me or my wife.” He said both he and his spouse have spoken at board meetings and that Robinson only listens to parents who want to keep their kids masked.
In his op-ed, Robinson wrote: “With all due respect to the men and women who snarl, ‘I’m a taxpayer! You work for me!’ No, I don’t work for you.”
“If he doesn’t work for us, who does he work for?” Nicole McCleary, who ran unsuccessfully for the York Suburban School Board in 2021 and has a fourth-grader attending school within the district, said during an interview with Fox News.
Jessica Carter, who has a middle-schooler in the district, said Robinson works for the constituents of York County.
“If you’re an elected official, whether it’s a school board, whether it’s, you know, all the way up to the president, you do work for your constituents,” she told Fox News. “You work for the people that elected you. Whether I voted for you or not, you still technically work for me.”
Sigley added: “He should be serving our children.”
McCleary said the op-ed was intimidating and aimed at specific parents who advocated for policy amendments regarding masking in schools.
“If you look at Mr. Robinson’s op-ed, you can almost go through … his bulleted points and he’s basically calling out parent by parent who spoke at the last meeting,” she told Fox News. “And all of those parents come from one side of the aisle.”
Robinson also wrote: “Finally, with all due respect to the charlatans who claim health and safety measures are responsible for destroying the mental health of children simply to justify their own social agenda, you are the most offensive and vile of all.”
“Finally, with all due respect to the charlatans who claim health and safety measures are responsible for destroying the mental health of children simply to justify their own social agenda, you are the most offensive and vile of all.”
Robinson did not address his op-ed in the first school board meeting following its publication.
However, another school board member, James Sanders, opened the meeting by separating himself from Robinson’s comments.
“Contrary to Mr. Robinson’s recent editorial, I don’t view your positions or comments as a cudgel,” he told attendees.
Aaron Hill, a parent with three children attending schools in the district, said he was disappointed by school board members’ unwillingness to respond to his questions regarding policy.
“I’ve been going to school board meetings, sending emails to them over the last six, seven months, and none of them responded,” Hill told Fox News. “And now he has the gall to go out and post an opinion piece in our York Dispatch.”
“Just answer our questions instead of taking it to the press,” he said.
Carter described having a similar experience: “Instead of replying to emails or even replying to any public comments during the school board meetings, he instead decided to go public with his opinion and just sort of wrote an angry rant.”
“If you’ve got the nerve and the gumption to put a piece out like that, you feel like you don’t owe anybody anything at that point,” Sigley said.
McCleary said it would take significant involvement from parents to change the school district.
“If you want to change the trajectory of what’s going on in your schools, it’s not going to happen overnight, but I can’t think of anything better to advocate for than your children’s future,” she told Fox News. “And so the road’s not going to be easy, but you need to get back in there, and you need to be involved.”
Robinson declined to comment for this story.
Adam Sabes contributed to this report