The president of the Delaware State Education Association resigned Wednesday over blog posts he wrote roughly a decade ago.
DSEA executive director Jeff Taschner says Mike Matthews resigned on his own Wednesday afternoon, prior to a meeting of the teachers’ union’s executive board.
Matthews stepped down amid criticism for racist and sexist blog posts— some of which made light of sexual violence against children. The posts were written between 2006 and 2009, and resurfaced this week when an undisclosed source reportedly brought them to WHYY’s attention.
DSEA officials say leadership at the state’s largest teachers’ union first learned of the blog posts when WHYY reached out to them for a story Tuesday.
Taschner says he was aware Matthews had been what he calls a “provocative” blogger, but was not familiar with the content of his blog.
“I would hope that if anybody had this information, whenever they had it, they would have brought it to us and said, this should be a concern for your organization. For whatever reason, they did not bring it to us. They decided to make it a news story, which they’re entitled to do,” he said. “But then to try to hold the organization responsible or to criticize it for something that it didn’t know about, I think is unfair.”
Taschner says he’s not aware of anyone bringing the posts to the attention of DSEA leadership before WHYY reported on them this week.
“I don’t think it was any secret that Mike was a blogger. Folks knew that. But I can’t tell you across our membership which is 13,000 or our executive board who read it, who didn’t read it, who read it and remembered it. It was not something that was a topic of discussion,” he said.
As an official elected by DSEA members, Matthews was not vetted by organization staff before assuming office. Taschner says the blog posts did not come up during Matthews' campaign or election in Spring 2017.
Matthews is currently employed by the Red Clay Consolidated School District, on unpaid leave because of his former role as DSEA president, according to Red Clay officials. Matthews taught fifth grade in the District prior to his election as president.
Matthews took responsibility for his comments and apologized in a Facebook post Thursday, saying, "DSEA is a bigger organization than one man. And, regardless of my actions, I will honor this organization by doing what I feel and what I know is in its best interests.”
Taschner applauds Matthews’ decision to put DSEA and public education in Delaware “ahead of himself” in choosing to resign.
Former DSEA Vice President Stephanie Ingram has stepped up to fill the role of president until the end of the term in July 2020.
In his facebook post Thursday, Matthews wrote, “Good luck to my friend Stephanie Ingram, who is going to make an AMAZING DSEA president.”
In a statement, Ingram called Matthews' old blog posts “completely inappropriate and contrary to the views or values of the educators who make up the DSEA.”
In a statement prior to Matthews’ resignation, Atnre Alleyne of education non-profit DelawareCAN said the blog posts “demean women, insult minorities and religious beliefs and joke about child molestation and gang rape.” He added that they have no place in our society,” and should be met with “strong … repercussions.”
The Delaware Department of Education declined to comment. Matthews also declined to comment to Delaware Public Media.