Hunterdon BOE member allegedly linked to transphobic Twitter account

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The Hunterdon Central Regional Board of Education (BOE) held a special session on March 29. There was just 30 minutes of public comment. The meeting focused on an anonymous transphobic Twitter account possibly linked to a BOE member. 

Rebecca Robb Peterson is a member of the BOE. She allegedly created the Twitter account in question (@mammallama). The speakers of the special session said someone activated the account about a year ago, but is since deleted. Before the last BOE meeting, Brian Miller, a student in Readington Township, said that 100 tweets on the account out of 19,000 were deleted, and the Twitter was deactivated. He said some of the tweets were so “disgusting” he wouldn’t repeat them.

The story about Peterson’s connection to the transphobic account has gained traction through Facebook and local New Jersey media. It comes as school boards across the state make sweeping anti-LGBTQ policy regardless of state law that requires protective measures for LGBTQ students and inclusive education.

Here’s a look at what we know so far. “I shouldn’t have to be here tonight,” said Miller in last Wednesday’s special session. “I should be studying, doing homework, and enjoying my time outside of school, and yet I’m here to speak out against the hateful and ignorant speech allegedly being spread by one of the [BOE] members sitting in front of me,” student Brian Miller from Readington said. “You are not elected to make hateful, transphobic comments and mock our peers. When we walk into school we expect to walk into a safe environment where we are accepted regardless of who we are as individuals. Despite this, the comments made by the Twitter account allegedly held by a board member have done exactly that.”

The BOE should not compromise their ethics, said Miller. The student also asks for Peterson’s resignation if she is responsible for the account.

Nevertheless, Lisa Santangelo, a resident of Readington Township didn’t think the special meeting was necessary. She doesn’t think the board is following due process.

Activists say the content allegedly shared by Peterson may contradict the School Ethics Act. The act holds accountable activities of New Jersey school board members acting in violation of public trust. The School Ethics Commission states that BOE members should not use social media as it applies to this violation either.

In one post, the Twitter account holder tweets “Hey, Deb, our illustrious former blue ribbon school, Hunterdon Central REfional High School (NJ) has two men on the “honoring women’s history” display. When I complained to the Superintendent, Jeff Moore, he offered to re-educate the kids who are offended by it. I hate nj.” If Peterson wrote the tweet it would likely violate section 18A:12-24.1 (Code of Ethics for School Board Members) of the School Ethics Act.

“The website states no actions will be taken so what’s the point of the meeting?” Santangelo asked the board. 

Yet, as of late March, an investigation is underway, according to Board President Lisa Hughes.

“There have been serious allegations made against one of our board members. I ask that any information on this issue be provided to the Board of Education; we will be consulting our Board attorney to determine next steps,” Hughes said March 20.

Moreover, members of Flemington QTs (Queer-Trans), an LGBTQ inclusive digital social space, presented social media content to the board after a public statement at March 20, 2023 meeting that they said linked Petersen to the now-deactivated Twitter account. NJ 101.5 reported these findings to include:

  • A variation of the Twitter handle in question — @mammallama — was used by an Instagram account that included Petersen’s name and the same profile photo as her active Facebook account — @becky.petersen.mammallama
  • The Twitter account @mammallama referenced “Hunterdon Central Regional High School (NJ)” and “Superintendent, Jeff Moore” in a few photos that criticized the inclusion of trans individuals in a Women’s History Month display.
  • A separate tweet from the account said it was their son’s school.
  • On Nov. 7, 2022, the Twitter account @mammallama referenced voting for them self, adding “Mama bears are coming for the school boards.”
  • Both the Twitter account @mammallama and Petersen have publicly referenced being a graduate of the Class of 1999 — and also attending University of North Carolina.
  • A March 17 tweet from the mamallama Twitter account misgendered federal government official, Admiral Rachel Levine, giving gross, detailed depictions about her genitalia.
  • A day later, on March 18, the same Twitter account again referred to Levine with the same gross detailed thoughts about Levine’s genitalia.

Peterson’s Facebook profile states: “this is my only social media account and anything I say here doesn’t represent Central boe”. 

Conversely, Peterson’s private Instagram handle — another social media account — is @rebecca.peterson.mammallama. 

“The board and our superintendent reject the hateful ideas posted in this account as harmful to children and adults in our community and to our school’s mission. These posts convey outright disdain and disrespect for our Board, our school and our staff,” said the BOE in a joint statement. 

This is a developing story that I will be following.