N.J. school board member under fire for offensive Facebook posts

MOUNT EPHRAIM -- A member of the borough's Board of Education said he regrets lewd and offensive posts he made on some Facebook pages, saying he did not realize they were viewable by the public. Lewis Greenwood Sr., 52, was elected to the board in 2015,...

N.J. school board member under fire for offensive Facebook posts

MOUNT EPHRAIM -- A member of the borough's Board of Education said he regrets lewd and offensive posts he made on some Facebook pages, saying he did not realize they were viewable by the public.

Lewis Greenwood Sr., 52, was elected to the board in 2015, the same year he retired as a lieutenant in the Camden County Sheriff's Department.

"Obviously I regret it and I don't want to embarrass my family and the board," Greenwood said Thursday.

He said he posted on the pages of people who upset him, including public figures he felt were expressing anti-American or anti-police sentiments. His comments included profanity, homophobic slurs, sexually-graphic language, and references to racial stereotypes.

While he said he did not know those posts would be public, Greenwood did say he stands by posts on his own Facebook profile and does not believe they are offensive. They include comments that could be perceived as racist or Islamophobic.

After being contacted about the posts by NJ.com, Mount Ephraim Public Schools Superintendent Leslie Koller and Camden County Sheriff Gilbert "Whip" Wilson condemned the comments.

"As a parent and citizen in today's society and culture, I condemn the use of these disrespectful and offensive words and comments," Koller said. "As an educator, I strive to instruct children as to how to respectfully interact with others, especially those with whom they may disagree. I lead my staff to do the same."

"The words and Matbet statements in these posts are not a reflection of our school community and are incompatible with the lessons we teach here in Mt. Ephraim," she said.

Complaints against superintendent dismissed

Koller said that she will not be investigating the issue. It's not clear whether the Mount Ephraim Board of Education will take any action to censure Greenwood.

Asked whether the board should act or whether she had any reaction personally, Board President Patricia Blaylock responded, "the Board will discuss this matter with its legal counsel and determine its collective position on the matter."

No other board members, including Greenwood's wife, Joan Greenwood, responded to requests for comment.

Greenwood also declined to comment beyond a few statements, saying the board's attorney would speak on his behalf. Attempts to contact the attorney, Michael Pattanite, were unsuccessful Thursday.

The Board of Education's code of conduct says members will refrain from inappropriate conduct when making public statements, including "refraining from any disparagement of my fellow board members or others on a personal, social, racial or religious basis."

It also says members must make educational decisions for students "regardless of their ability, race, creed, sex or social standing."

In the past month, several public officials in New Jersey have come under fire for questionable social media posts.

A police lieutenant in Elmer in Cumberland County is being investigated after he sent harassing Tweets to journalists and Democrats, including a threatening message to a Massachusetts congressman.

A Port Authority officer was also the subject of an investigation after he made disparaging comments on a video he shared of a protester getting punched in the face.

"I was upset"

NJ.com began tracking down Greenwood's public Facebook posts after receiving an anonymous tip. He has not disputed that he made any of the comments included in this story.

Among the targets for Greenwood's angry comments were Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Cheech and Chong, Whoopi Goldberg and the other hosts of the View, and the Occupy Democrats group.

His comment to Lil Wayne followed a video surfacing of the rapper stepping on an American flag during a video shoot, something which Lil Wayne later said happened by mistake.

Greenwood's comment called Lil Wayne a "soon to be welfare recipient like your parents if their (sic) not in prison."

His attack on Beyonce -- which was actually posted on an unofficial page with her name misspelled -- was posted days after Super Bowl 50, when some called her anti-police because her backup dancers wore black panther-esque berets.

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A comment on the page of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refers to then President Barack Obama as "Muslim garbage."

It's not clear what motivated the comments to the other pages, and Greenwood declined to answer questions about specific posts. "I was upset," he said.

On his personal Facebook page, Greenwood occasionally shared posts or wrote things himself that could be seen as racist and Islamophobic, though he maintains they are not offensive. One refers to "illegal Mexicans," another appears to suggest that black protesters are looters, and another talks about "standing up to Islam."

One repost on his page says it may have been a bad idea to remove prayer, Bible readings and the Ten Commandments from schools.

All of these posts were made after April 2015, when Greenwood retired from the Camden County Sheriff's Department after a 27-year career. County Spokesman Dan Keashen said Greenwood does not pick up shifts with the department, as some retirees do.

Sheriff Wilson said Greenwood never worked under his command, but his administration still wanted to make clear that it doesn't tolerate the language he used on Facebook.

"First and foremost, after reviewing the comments made by this individual I am appalled by the posts and find this language unacceptable and reprehensible," Wilson said in a statement.

"Furthermore, this former employee does not represent the hard work and dedication of the current staff working in the Camden County Sheriff's Department," he said. "This is a department that is dedicated to helping and serving all people in our community and is rooted in tolerance and diversity."

Superintendent Koller said that while she won't be taking action on the issue, she will "remain on-call" for any students, staff or parents who want to discuss it.

She said she will also be "echoing my position that foul language, offensive comments, and disrespectful disagreements are not acceptable forms of communication."

Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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