NJ Teachers’ Union Statement of ‘Dismay’ on Rittenhouse Verdict Sparks Backlash
A written statement from New Jersey's largest teachers’ union on the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in a Wisconsin courtroom was met with a firestorm of criticism on social media.
“Today we share the dismay of all those who see the brokenness of our justice system,” the statement from the New Jersey Education Association read on Friday.
"But more than that, today we share the determination of those whose commitment to true equality, liberty and justice for all people – regardless of race, religion or creed – has only been strengthened by the clear reminder of how far our country still has to go."
The Facebook share on the NJEA account had prompted nearly 750 comments as of early Monday, as well as 199 "angry" reactions, 115 laughing reactions, 64 users who liked it and 15 who loved the statement.
At least 13 users were “surprised” at the statement, and five each were sad or expressed care.
The joint release was attributed to NJEA President Sean Spiller, Vice-President Steve Beatty, and Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson.
“I guess you didn't see what happened in Virginia when their education unions decided to go political. You think your insulated because NJ is a Blue State? Guess again,” a tweet from Tom Bombadil said in response.
“Shouldn’t you use your personal account for a statement like this? Or does this speak to all your members? What happens to a member that feels the justice system works? Even if you disagree it seems to me this could be intimidating to those people,” another Twitter user responded to the statement, as shared by Spiller, who also is mayor of Montclair, and re-shared by the NJEA account.
“We are calling for all BOEs & Teachers alike to publicly request that the @NJEA rescind their comments regarding the legal decision from Wisconsin. Their platform is not to be used for political partisanship,” said a written reaction on Twitter by Arise NJ, a conservative grassroots organization led by failed republican gubernatorial candidate, Phil Rizzo.
Another Twitter user simply responded, “Focus on math.”
NJEA President Sean Spiller then traded comments on Facebook with one of the most high-profile critics of the statement — failed candidate for governor Doug Steinhardt.
“Public schools are failing & our kids are falling behind so NJEA President Sean Spiller weighs in on the #RittenhouseTrial & #Kenosha instead of #education in #nj - if you want to fix our public school education system, start here,” Steinhardt wrote on his own Facebook page.
“Hey Doug Steinhardt, we have the #1 ranked schools in the nation with the best educators, but the difference between you and us is we understand we can always do better, we can continue to grow and even better serve our kids. That's how we stay #1. We will continue to support our communities, our students and their families, even those marginalized and underprivileged. Caring about kids IS our business,” Spiller wrote in response to Steinhardt’s comments over the weekend.
Steinhardt, a republican and avid supporter of President Trump, dropped out of the race to challenge Gov. Phil Murphy in January 2020 just a month after launching his campaign, in the days following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
He also was the focus of a campaign finance watchdog report in December 2020, as previously reported by NorthJersey.com.
“As exposed by this damning report, Steinhardt is the swamp and has been for years,” Jack Ciattarelli, then-rival of the GOP hopeful, said as quoted by InsiderNJ.com.