Springboro, Ohio, school district community members are upset after a local tea partyer unfurled a Confederate flag at a school board meeting Thursday night.
Sonny Thomas, who is the president and founder of Springboro Tea Party, according to this website, was at the meeting to speak about summer Constitution classes that the district had been considering offering. The school board cancelled the classes, however, amid allegations that they had religious undertones and were "tea party leaning," reports local outlet WHIO-TV.
Thomas, who has previously come under fire for racist tweets, gave a speech meant to defend the Constitution classes. According to sources, however, he also made racist comments and endorsed the League of the South, which advocates for an independent Southern republic. At the end of his speech he unfurled a Confederate flag and asked the audience if they were offended.
William Cunningham, a community member who attended the meeting, wrote about the incident on the Facebook page Springboro United for Responsible Education.
“If the discussion in the community has come down to some man waving the ‘stars and bars’ during a public forum on education while shouting, ‘This is your heritage!’ at the audience is not only appalling, it is downright awful,’” Cunningham wrote.
According to the blog of community member Nimisha Patel, he made comments suggesting African-Americans "should consider themselves lucky since they are treated better in the United States than they would be if they were in 'Black Countries' with 'genocide.'"
Thomas, who spoke for more than his allotted time, was allowed to stay at the meeting, although two other speakers were asked to leave. According to the Dayton Daily News, local parent Jason Lewis was escorted out after objecting to the school board president's criticism of a book being read by students, and Leslie Marsh was also asked to leave when she urged school board members to finish prolonged contract negotiations with teachers. (The board settled with teachers Friday, after months of discussions.)
Lewis told The Huffington Post that meeting attendees seemed shocked and uncomfortable throughout Thomas’ speech. He also noted that school board members did not condemn Thomas’ actions when given the opportunity, and he said he believes members of the school board with tea party ties are interested in “using Springboro as ground zero to introduce religion into schools.”
The president of the school board, Kelly Kohls, is also the head of the Warren County Tea Board. She could not be reached for comment at press time.
The Springboro district has come under scrutiny in recent months after the school board introduced a proposal to teach creationism. The board has yet to decide on the issue.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that Jason Lewis had been escorted out of the school board meeting after objecting to a book being read my students. The article has been updated to reflect this change.