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N.O. School Board censures member for Facebook post PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Jaeger   
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 17:43

Unprecedented rebuke prompted by elected official’s online rant against player, coaches

In an unprecedented move, the Northern Ozaukee School Board voted unanimously Monday to censure one of its own members for posting comments on Facebook criticizing an Ozaukee High School football player and the coaching staff.

Tom Hoffmann, a veteran board member who represents the Town of Saukville, came under fire at the Sept. 19 board meeting for the Facebook post he made following the team’s 35-25 loss to St. Mary’s Springs, the defending Division 6 state champion. It turned out to be the Warriors’ only loss in the regular season.

Hoffmann was upset with the coaching decision to throw the ball in the second half of the St. Mary’s Springs game to receiver Jared Zausch instead of his son Garrett, who is also a receiver.

Among the criticisms leveled by Hoffmann in the Facebook post was that Zausch “couldn’t catch a cold in a blizzard.”

Those comments were singled out by Zausch’s parents, who called for Hoffmann’s immediate removal from office.

“It’s unbelievable and beyond my comprehension,” said John Zausch, who is also an assistant coach on the team. “What Tom said was reprehensible, shocking and an embarrassment to the School Board.”

Zausch characterized the online criticism as cyberbullying, a practice explicitly prohibited by district policy.

Several board members agreed that some disciplinary action against Hoffmann was in order, with questions raised at last month’s meeting about how a recall vote could be organized.

Board President Paul Krause discounted those comments, saying such actions are initiated by voters not elected officials.

Instead, an item was included on Monday’s board agenda titled “board action on recent social media comments.”

When the meeting came to that point on the agenda, Krause read a statement intended to distance the board from Hoffmann’s comments.

“We have all read the statements that have been made on social media by Mr. Hoffmann, demeaning one of our students,” Krause’s statement said.

“In the view of the Northern Ozaukee School District Board of Education, these statements are not in alignment with our core values of respect and citizenship or our strategic goals of community and school Pride.

“These statements do not reflect the behavior that we expect from our board members.”

Krause then called for a formal board stance, saying, “I will entertain a motion for the board of education to condemn these statements and (issue an) official censure of Mr. Hoffmann for these inappropriate public comments.”

The motion was unanimously approved by the board without discussion.

Hoffmann was not at the board meeting, nor was he at the September meeting when the issue was raised, saying he had prior commitments.

A vote to censure, or no confidence, is a formal and public condemnation of a person or group. It does not affect Hoffmann’s status on the School Board.

With the vote, Krause said, “that’s enough said on that.”

Asked about the board sanction, Hoffmann said in an interview Tuesday he had no comment, but questioned the significance of the vote.

“Why would I change?” he responded when asked if the censure will affect his behavior.

In an interview last month, Hoffmann said the Facebook comments were not meant to be a public post, and they were taken down after the public outrage erupted.

Hoffmann said the criticism was posted in “the heat of the moment,” shortly after the disheartening loss.

“I apologize for any damaging perception that comes from this, but it was frustrating to see an opportunity against Springs slip away and I needed to vent a little,” he said.

Hoffmann said he has had ongoing issues with the football coaching staff but now realizes it was unfair to put his son and teammate in the middle of the dispute.

“I get where they are coming from … but this is the world of sports,” he said.

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