A post by a William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board member in an online social media group generated negative backlash from community members Friday.
Joe Messina, president of the Hart Governing Board and representative for Trustee Area 5, commented on a post in the public “25th Congressional District Election Watch” Facebook group, stating that individuals at Congressman Steve Knight’s Santa Clarita town hall Thursday were acting like a “Bunch of 17 year old spoiled brats.”
The comment sparked a negative response in another public Facebook group, the “Santa Clarita Community” group, where members were calling for his removal, claiming his views were incompatible with the district and stating that his views do not represent the students.
Messina said the comment was taken out of context and that he was referring to the adults acting like 17-year-olds, not actual 17-year-olds who were at the town hall.
“I think that they took what I said and spun it around because I said the adults were acting like teenagers,” Messina said. “I wasn’t talking about the teenagers I was talking about the adults acting like teenagers.”
Hours later, Messina responded to some criticism on his original comment in the “25th Congressional District Election Watch” page stating that he was referring to the adults in the room, not the kids.
“You think I was talking about the kids? Really I’d expect that from kids. I’m talking about the adults that YELL only at these events like spoiled teenagers [teenagers] that don’t get their way,” Messina said in his comment. “All you guys do is spew hate and false news. You don’t let the officials really answer the questions.”
Messina said his original comment was taken out of context by someone who does not like him and who did not understand what he was saying.
“The only reason they do stuff is because it’s me,” he said. “When we start learning to talk to each other and can sit in a room together, that’s when stuff gets done.”
Anthony Breznican, a Santa Clarita resident and father of two, posted Messina’s original comment in the Santa Clarita Community group. He said he has no personal animosity toward Messina but found his comment to be offensive.
“I saw this comment and was disgusted,” Breznican said. “At a time when kids are graduating and we are encouraging them to be involved, to care about things, to face the big issues, here is our local school board president, insulting the teens who took time out of their days to attend a congressman’s town hall.”
Breznican said that after he confronted Messina about his original comment in the Facebook group, he heard concerns from fellow parents about previous comments the school board president made on social media.
“I kept expecting him to apologize for his ‘spoiled brats’ comment, but he has said far, far worse,” Breznican said. “As a parent in his district, I think we deserve far, far better than this man.”
Fellow Hart Governing Board member Linda Storli said Messina noted on social media that someone misquoted him and said she would give him the benefit of the doubt until she reviews the original comment.
As a fellow government teacher, Storli said she was happy that both students and adults are becoming passionate about government and interested in local politics.
“I personally think, as a teacher at Canyon for 30 years, that the audience could have been more respectful, but it wasn’t just one side,” she said. “Both sides were screaming and the problem is you can’t scream to the questions and scream to the replies.”
During town halls, Storli said that, in general, attendees should be more civil so questions can be heard and answered by those onstage and in the audience.
“I understand the excitement and the enthusiasm that goes into an event like that,” she said. “I think more would have been gotten out of the event if people could contain the booing and the screaming during the event.”
Governing Board Clerk Steve Sturgeon said he did not have a comment on the situation, as he had not followed the posts. Board members Bob Jensen and Cherise Moore could not be reached for comment.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_