‘You are animals who disgust me’: A school board candidate’s history of racist Facebook posts

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

August 18, 2018 at 4:15 PM

(Getty Images / iStock)

Richard Jankowski used Facebook to spew plenty of race-based vitriol — against former president Barack Obama, NBA player LeBron James or anyone supporting affirmative action — but in August 2014, as protesters poured into the streets over the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Janowski boiled over.

“You g—–n animals in Missouri make me sick!” he typed in the public post originally reported by the New Jersey Globe, a political reporting site. “Another black criminal gets killed after assaulting a white cop and you pieces of s–t want justice? You are not Americans, you are animals who disgust me.”

Eight months later, Ferguson was on his Facebook page again, as he called for violence against protesters.

“So now I watch videos of the ‘protesters’ throwing trash cans and any other items at any white person they see…….time to start firing bullets into these f—–g monkeys and send them to their graves.”

Jankowski is one of six candidates running for three open seats on the school board in Monroe Township, N.J. In the district’s high school, more than a third of students identify as minorities, according to U.S. News & World Report.

It is not uncommon for news organizations to look closely at the backgrounds of people running for elective office. What is uncommon is for disparaging information to be laid out in a public social media post, easy for the world to see.

In posts uncovered by the Globe, whose article included images of Jankowski’s Facebook page, the candidate made insensitive or insulting remarks about: blacks, gays, people with mental disabilities, protesters, kneeling NFL players and specifically Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, O.J. Simpson, Caitlyn Jenner, Trayvon Martin, affirmative action supporters, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, Cher and “whoever the hell Moby is” — in addition to Obama, James and the protesters in Ferguson.

He offered apologies, conversely, to “my law abiding, hard working black friends that feel as though I have insulted them, it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

His personal Facebook page and the one for his campaign had both been deactivated or set to private by Saturday morning, and Jankowski did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Members of his community, meanwhile, were speaking out, either distancing themselves from Jankowski’s splenetic remarks or mobilizing to make sure he doesn’t attain the office he seeks.

Education leaders in the community said Jankowski’s comments do not reflect the board he was campaigning to join. The closest he’s come to the school board was being “vocal” at some meetings, Board of Education Vice President James Henderson told NJ.com.

Monroe Township Board of Education President George Caruso told NJ.com that anything Jankowski has said “doesn’t pertain to any school business. That’s between that gentleman and the rest of the community. He’s not on the school board.”

Related: [A teen spread a racist video of a black classmate eating chicken. Both face criminal charges.]

When Loretta Winters, the head of the Gloucester NAACP, heard about Jankowski’s comments, she mobilized an effort to ensure he never took a seat on the dais of the school board.

“You can’t refer to black folks or anybody as monkeys or animals,” she told The Washington Post. “And to say that ‘we need to get our guns out, and be shooting them,’ to me that’s almost a terroristic threat against any people of color.”

She said that similar reports ran in a local newspaper this week and that the next morning she received a phone call from Jankowski.

He “apologized profusely,” she said. More important, he told her he was dropping out of the race.

She said she accepted his apology but felt that he showed contrition only because “he got exposed.”

“Even though some of these comments were made a couple years ago, that’s who you are,” she said. “He cannot represent our children and our diverse community with thoughts like that.”

This post initially gave an inaccurate location for Monroe Township. This post has been corrected and updated. 

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Cleve Wootson is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. He was previously a reporter for the Charlotte Observer.

New Jersey’s Public Schools Still Among Most Segregated in Nation

Almost 10 percent of all students attend “apartheid schools,” where 99 percent or more of the student body is nonwhite

segregation

The unflattering ranking has grown all too familiar: New Jersey is home to some of the most segregated public schools in the country.

The latest statistics come courtesy of report released last week by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, an organization that has tracked school segregation nationwide for decades and consistently found New Jersey in the bottom 10.

The new numbers offer some striking facts:

For instance, the percentage of New Jersey schools that are 90 percent nonwhite has doubled since 1990 to one-in-five. Those that are 99 percent or more nonwhite has also doubled to 8 percent of all schools.

A quarter of black students now attend such schools, labeled in the report as “apartheid schools.”

“While New Jersey has taken historic steps to equalize funding for high-poverty schools, segregation has gone largely unchecked,” said Gary Orfield, the director of the Civil Rights project.

This comes as New Jersey itself has only grown more diverse. For the first time in the project’s tracking, white students made up a minority of overall enrollment, at 46 percent of all students in 2015-2016. At the same time, the proportion of Hispanic (26 percent) and Asian (10 percent) students both continued to grow.

Coupled with a sizable but shrinking African-American enrollment (16 percent), the project defined New Jersey as a “four-race” state when it came to student makeup.

New Jersey has plenty of company, according to the chief author of the report, with few states showing much progress.

“In some cases, it’s at least not getting worse,” said Orfield, who has been tracking the numbers for more than 20 years.

Still, he said the issue is starting to generate new attention in many states, if not new policy. “There is developing intensive conversation around this,” he said. “We are getting more requests and more interest than we have in a long time.”

New Jersey is one such a state, albeit with little as yet coming out of the politicians or policymakers in terms of remedies.

The issue was hardly on the radar for Gov. Chris Christie in his past eight years of office, and Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has yet to say much about what he would do concerning segregation of the state’s schools.

When asked by NJ Spotlight at the first of the gubernatorial debates this fall about his position on school consolidation and regionalization as one remedy, Murphy did decry the wide disparities.

“The reality is that we are the most or among the most segregated states in the nation,” he said.

But Murphy was less clear on what steps would come next, placing a common blame on segregated housing patterns and also claiming additional school funding would help.

“With all due respect, getting those two policy areas in the right place would be a big way in getting at the segregated state we’re in,” Murphy said.

Beyond that, the governor-elect only called for more attention to shared services between districts and maybe the appointment of a “czar” to shepherd such efforts statewide.

Legislators have yet to pay much attention, either, and the question comes next to whether New Jersey’s courts will get involved. The state’s constitution specifically prohibits segregation in the public education system, opening a window for a challenge that has yet to be raised.

Orfield said that while he presses for voluntary methods, the courts may provide a lasting remedy. He pointed to a state court order in Connecticut that has led to widespread desegregation efforts.

“The state courts can do a lot, just look at Connecticut,” Orfield said. “The state courts are the one place where people may start to pay attention.”

Video: Trailer for CAIR’s ‘In Their Footsteps: An American Muslim Civil Rights Journey’