Contra Costa County school board trustee Jeff Belle tweeted his support for President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, breaking away from a slew of local leaders and educators who have condemned the travel ban.
Belle, who serves as vice president of the board and represents District 5’s East County schools, retweeted a flurry of messages from pro-Trump, anti-Muslim accounts on Saturday and Sunday. One meme he retweeted said "Sorry illegals, America is closed."
He also linked to an anti-Islamic screed titled "My Islam Problem and Yours" and wrote that Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) is "hateful."
This is not the first time Belle's tweets have landed him in hot water. In early January, he faced swift backlash after he wrote "Jesus dislikes you" to a detractor. He has also faced legal troubles for lying on election paperwork, practicing respiratory care without a license and for bogus checks.
Trump’s order, which went into effect Friday, indefinitely suspends Syrian refugees' entry to the United States while also barring entry of individuals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days. The ban's implementation caused widespread chaos and protests at airport terminals across the country, with thousands flocking to San Francisco International Airport to demand the release of detainees.
Belle said in an interview with NBC Bay Area that he tweets as a private citizen, not as a representative of the school board, despite his Twitter profile identifying him as a trustee and linking to the board's website.
"You don’t have to like Trump’s policy," Belle said. "But the right thing to do as an elected official is not start crying and whining about the winner." He went on to say that "it’s a new day in town" and that the election "will turn out to be the best thing to happen to us."
Belle is also supportive of Trump's executive order that threatens to slash federal funding for sanctuary cities — an action that would have dire consequences for a slew of programs that help children and families across the Bay Area. On Tuesday, San Francisco became the first city to file suit against that order.
Belle described Trump's stance on sanctuary cities as being a "reset in America in terms of immigration."
"We are going to follow the law," Belle said. "I don't care what (the county's office of education) says. ... We are going to do whatever federal law says."
The board distanced itself from Belle’s remarks in an interview with NBC Bay Area on Monday.
"While Mr. Belle certainly has a right to free speech and to his own opinion, he is not acting within the capacity of his role as a board of education member," said an exasperated Terry Koehne, a spokesperson for the Contra Costa County Office of Education. "His views do not reflect the views of this agency, or the board as a whole."
Koehne continued: "We are about diversity and inclusion. We are about safe school campuses. We teach tolerance, but we don’t tolerate hatred."
The board hears appeals on expulsion disputes, approves the budget for the County Office of Education and establishes policies for programs like special education and career development. It has not formally denounced the immigration ban or made any declarations supporting sanctuary campuses or cities.
The office did, however, publish a post-election toolkit that includes sample resolutions for districts that would like to implement sanctuary policies. Titled "All Kids Are Our Kids," its safe haven resolutions have been implemented in some county schools, including Pittsburg and Antioch, which are both in Belle’s district.
Belle is up for re-election in 2018.