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School board member asked to resign over social media posts

Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 2:43 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2022 at 4:29 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Jefferson Parish School Board has asked a newly-appointed member to resign following backlash over social media posts where he bashed teachers, called COVID-19 the “China virus,” and cussed out former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Rafael Rafidi was appointed to the position on Jan. 5 after District 6 Board member Larry Dale resigned.

“He presented himself as a family man of strong faith with a commitment to education,” the school board sent in a statement on Jan. 7.

“This is for the kids,” was Rafidi’s answer to the school board’s special session to swear him in.

After his nomination, Rafidi’s social media posts began to emerge.

In one Tweet From Aug. 2018, Rafidi called teachers “the fall of our young people.”

“No values, no work ethic, and just suck as much as you can from those that work hard,” the tweet continued. “Good job.”

“#chinavirus will magically disappear on Nov 4th,” a Facebook post from Sept. 2020 said.

Rafael Rafidi was asked to resign two days after being appointed to a position on the Jefferson...
Rafael Rafidi was asked to resign two days after being appointed to a position on the Jefferson Parish School Board after controversial social media posts began to emerge.(WVUE)
Rafael Rafidi was asked to resign two days after being appointed to a position on the Jefferson...
Rafael Rafidi was asked to resign two days after being appointed to a position on the Jefferson Parish School Board after controversial social media posts began to emerge.(WVUE)

Board member Simeon Dickerson asked Rafidi if he believed in diversity and inclusivity after seeing one of Rafidi’s social media posts in which Rafidi disparaged the black national anthem.

“I didn’t know the national anthem was only for whites!” he posted in Aug. 2020. “I will never watch NFL football again! Tom Benson is turning in his grave bc [sic] of this WEAK franchise and its current leaders #weakDrewBrees”

“Just as the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance is important to me and my community, so is the black national anthem. It is extremely important,” said Dickerson.

In one post, Dickerson says Rafidi was at the US capitol on January 6.

“Anyone who participated or supported the capitol riot is a traitor to this country,” said Dickerson.

In another tweet from Feb. 2021, Rafidi called former Mayor Landrieu a traitor and a “piece of sh*t.”

His Twitter account has since been deleted.

“When we made his appointment, the board was not aware of these social media posts,” school board officials said. “We apologize for this oversight.”

The non-civil tone, profane language and generalized condemnation of opposing ideological groups is indefensible and inconsistent with the Board’s objective of unity and mutual respect. We specifically take exception to his post demeaning teachers. The teachers of Jefferson Parish are foundational to the success we have seen during this crisis. Their extraordinary dedication and sacrifice have been recognized statewide and regionally as other school systems followed our lead in returning children to the classroom. We believe that these posts will continue to distract from the achievements we have realized during these challenging times and hinder our district’s goal of providing the education our students deserve. We strongly believe that the lingering effect of Mr. Rafidi’s provocative positions will render him ineffective as a District representative and School Board member, and we have asked Mr. Rafidi to resign.

“This is not what Jefferson Parish represents… I do believe people can change but right now it’s too soon. I don’t think he’s going to have a change of heart on things he believes in,” said Dickerson.

Board members Billy North and Ricky Johnson have both said the vetting process for these positions needs to improve.

“I’m sad we didn’t vet him as we should have… I don’t think his background what he’s said about teachers and using words of profanity are anything the Jefferson Parish school board needs at this time,” said Johnson.

“I didn’t know about these social media posts before we selected Rafidi, but after reading some posts, specifically negative towards teaching and teachers, I’m very much concerned about our selections. As a board member I will strive to make the process more transparent and will do a better job in the future,” said North in a written statement.

While some postings may be politically divisive, board members and teachers themselves say it’s his position about teachers that’s the most egregious.

“As far as I’m concerned our teachers need to be encouraged and supported,” said Johnson.

“The fact that Mr. Rafidi says teachers have no values and no work ethic shows how incompetent and how ignorant he actually is… we cannot have insurrectionist placed on public school boards,” said West Jefferson High School teacher, John Guzda.

Rafidi did initially agree to an interview but has since stopped responding to requests. As of Friday evening, he has not responded to the board’s request for him to resign.

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