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Jefferson Parish School Board member resigns over politically-divisive social media posts

jefferson parish public schools.png
Courtesy of Jefferson Parish Public Schools
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Jefferson Parish Public Schools administration building

Less than a week after coming into office, a Jefferson Parish School Board member who attended the Jan. 6, 2021 rally and verbally attacked opponents of former President Donald Trump in social media posts has resigned from his position.

According to NOLA.com, contractor and businessman Rafael Rafidi sent a letter to the school board to resign from his new position on Monday, though the resignation isn’t official until the Secretary of State receives a letter.

"In the past few days, I have come to realize that the school board's efforts to serve the children of Jefferson Parish might be more effective if I stepped down," Rafidi wrote.

Rafidi was sworn in as an interim school board member on Jan. 5, 2022. He was the sole candidate for the position, and he was approved in a 6-1 vote, with one member abstaining.

Teachers and community members swiftly met Rafidi’s approval with protest. Rafidi had published politically-charged, profane messages on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, attacking state and local politicians including U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy and former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, notably calling the latter a “f- - -ing traitor.”

Rafidi also criticized the NFL on Twitter for airing performances of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song often called the Black National Anthem, before football games. Board member Simeon Dickerson questioned Rafidi about that tweet during the meeting in which Rafidi was voted onto the board.

"This is a minority-majority school district," Dickerson, who is Black, told Rafidi. "You do realize that next month is Black History Month? We will be singing the Black National Anthem."

"Yessir," Rafidi replied, before saying that he believed in the "inclusion of everyone" and that he was joining the board "for the kids."

In another tweet captured by NOLA.com before the account’s deletion, Rafidi attacked teachers, saying, "Teachers are the fall of our young people in this country. No values, no work ethic and just suck as much as you can from those that work hard. Good job."

Though he claimed he attended the rally in Washington, D.C. last year, he said he didn’t take part in the storming and attack of the Capitol later that day.

So, how did a politically-divisive, anti-teacher businessman become a school board member in a district where most students are minorities?

Rafidi was recommended to the board by his predecessor, Larry Dale, who served there for 11 years. Unlike other interim board members, Rafidi did not have to submit an application, according to NOLA.com. Teachers and board members who criticized Rafidi’s appointment wondered why he wasn’t vetted to ensure he was qualified and could make impartial decisions.

“No one really had an opportunity to vet this individual prior to his appointment,” Kesler Camese-Jones, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, told The Daily Beast.

She added that teachers were “very upset” about Rafidi’s approval because of his disparaging social media posts.

School board officials posted on the district’s website that District 6, the one Rafidi represented, was vacant and they were accepting applications through Jan. 17 to fill the seat.

Aubry is a reporter, producer and operations assistant in Baton Rouge.
Katelyn Umholtz is the digital editor for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of New Orleans.

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