A Delaware County school board president has apologized after acknowledging he shared “tasteless” social media posts, including memes mocking Mexican immigrants and people objecting to mistreatment by police.
Leon Armour, president of the Penn-Delco school board, posted those memes to his Facebook page in previous years. More recently, he minimized the risks of the coronavirus — asking why people were “cowering in their homes” — and referred to Muslim head coverings while expressing opposition to wearing masks during the pandemic.
“Since it’s against my religious beliefs … i will not need to wear a mask when visiting stores or out in public,” Armour wrote in April. In another post, he wrote, “If the Muslims can wear them due to religious beliefs, we can refuse to wear them for religious belief.”
Armour said in an email, “Although some of the memes that I have shared in the past could be considered 'tasteless,’ they were only meant to be humorous and not as offensive. If they were interpreted as offensive, I offer an apology to anyone that was affected by them.”
Of his recent coronavirus posts, Armour said that “like millions of Americans I have my personal views about the way that the recent pandemic has been handled or mishandled,” and “took to social media to joke about it.” He said his views “will not influence the school district’s commitment to state requirements” or guidelines from federal agencies as schools grapple with how to reopen buildings closed in March due to the pandemic.
The posts were first reported by a local website, yc.news. When contacted by The Inquirer about the posts and report, Armour did not dispute or deny posting them, instead issuing his statement.
Armour’s Facebook page is now private. It had been public last week, according to a person who took screenshots of the posts and sent them to The Inquirer.
The sender, who identified himself as a district parent and asked to remain anonymous out of concern for his children, said he emailed the screenshots to district principals and counselors in light of other racial incidents in the area.
On May 31, an Aston Township man allegedly yelled racial slurs at protesters. Two days later, Penn-Delco Superintendent George Steinhoff emailed the district community about an "inflammatory video recording made by current PDSD students” two years ago.
Calling racial slurs “reprehensible," Steinhoff said work in the district “still remains to be done to ensure that derogatory comments or threats simply don’t get uttered, even if students think it is a joke.”
Penn-Delco enrolls about 3,400 students, according to state data. About 83% are white, 7% are black, 4% are multiracial, 3% are Hispanic and 3% are Asian. The district includes Aston, Brookhaven, and Parkside.
After joining the school board in 2015, Armour was elected last year to another four-year term. Fellow board members elected him unanimously as board president in December. He works as a warehouse operations manager and has four children, two of whom attend school in the district, according to the district’s website.
The other eight Penn-Delco school board members did not respond to requests for comment on Armour’s posts.
Some of the memes shared by Armour mocked Mexicans. “Mexican word of the day is mushroom,” read one from 2016, the text posted over a photo of a man in a sombrero. “When Trump sends us all back to Mexico there is not going to be mushroom.”
He shared another on that theme in 2019.
Others included a 2015 post of a meme drawing on conspiracy theories over former President Barack Obama’s birthplace — “How do I stop Trump, I don’t want him to deport me when he wins." A 2019 photo posted of soccer star Megan Rapinoe — who is lesbian — read: “It’s estimated that over 6.5 billion people do not give a damn about this guy’s opinion!”
Another meme, from 2016, featured text over a grinning Willy Wonka: “You’re being treated poorly by police? Have you tried not breaking the law to see if that helps?”
In his statement, Armour addressed that post specifically, saying it “simply states that breaking the law is how certain situations start and not doing so would help the cause. I do not support any form of police brutality. I have and always will support law enforcement and our military."
He added that “it is clear that I have a lot to learn about others’ sensibilities and I will strive to do better in the future.”