Glen Ellyn school board candidate under fire for QAnon, 'yellow star' tweets

  • Upper from left, Robert Bruno, Adam Collins, Jodee Dunham, Abigail Emerson and lower from left, Jason Loebach, Chris Martelli, Millie Sessions and Tayyaba Syed are candidates for four school board seats in Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41.

    Upper from left, Robert Bruno, Adam Collins, Jodee Dunham, Abigail Emerson and lower from left, Jason Loebach, Chris Martelli, Millie Sessions and Tayyaba Syed are candidates for four school board seats in Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41.

 
 
Updated 3/25/2021 4:21 PM

A school board candidate in Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 is facing backlash over social media posts from some of her opponents and even one of her running mates in the crowded race.

Jodee Dunham has come under fire for a series of posts from a now-deleted Twitter account. In some of the posts, Dunham praised a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement and vowed to defy mask rules set by businesses.

 

In another post, she responded to a radio show's tweet about coronavirus measures by referencing "the yellow star." Under Nazi rule, Jewish people were forced to wear the labels during the Holocaust.

"How do you make that comparison? We're trying to keep everyone safe, alive and healthy," said incumbent Jason Loebach, who is running for reelection.

Dunham deleted her social media accounts earlier this year, but the tweets can still be viewed on a digital archive site, and screenshots of dozens of posts are being circulated on Facebook by concerned parents in the district.

In a lengthy statement this week, Dunham expressed remorse in sweeping terms -- directly acknowledging only one of the posts -- but pushed back against the criticism. She insisted the supporters of her opponents in the fiercely contested race are "desperate to tarnish" her name.

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Dunham has not responded to multiple interview requests.

"I'll be the first to admit that I may not have always chosen my words wisely, and at times could certainly be characterized as careless, while commenting on social media," Dunham said in the statement. "I assure you none of it was done with ill intent and I sincerely apologize to anyone who may have been offended."

Dunham and Loebach are among eight candidates vying for four school board seats. Dunham is campaigning with three other challengers, Abigail Emerson, Adam Collins and Millie Sessions.

The other candidates are newcomers Chris Martelli and Tayyaba Syed and school board President Robert Bruno, who is seeking a second term.

Bruno joined Loebach in decrying Dunham's tweets.

"I don't know what's in Mrs. Dunham's heart," Bruno said via email. "But the tweets express views which feed a culture of division built on contempt for others. My hope is that this moment provides an opportunity for personal reflection and grace."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Loebach said in an interview that he came across the tweets this week after a board meeting to approve plans to return to in-person learning five days a week, starting April 19.

"I don't think she deserves a seat at the board table," Loebach said. "I don't think that her beliefs correspond to those of a good objective board member. I don't think those beliefs do anything to help raise up our community. They don't do anything to support our student community as a whole."

Even one of her allies took issue with some of the content.

When asked about the tweets, Collins said he addressed the posts with Dunham, Emerson and Sessions, both individually and as a group, and pointed to his Facebook page for his public comments on the matter.

Collins initially posted a message in which he defended Dunham. But in a follow-up post, he said he wanted to address the "injustice, hate, racism and intolerance that appeared in another candidate's social media comments."

He said he told Dunham he does not support the views expressed in her social media comments.

Collins wrote "referencing the Yellow Star in any way evokes a strong emotional response (for) those of the Jewish faith, and those that support them, despite her intentions."

Dunham cited the "constant divisive rhetoric" in her decision to delete her social media accounts.

"As you can see from the tweets circulating, I had succumbed to some of those pressures and propaganda as well," she said in the statement. "It was and remains a toxic environment and I made the decision to eliminate that negative stimulus for myself. And now that personal decision and my past posts are being used to portray me in such a way as I never imagined possible."

Dunham suggested the controversy was an attempt to deflect from the issues of the race, and that her views and values cannot "be reduced to a few tweets."

"I know who I am, I am confident in who I am, and those who know me feel the same," she said. "I will not stand by and be bullied into any decision."

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