Mt. Lebanon School Board voted to censure member Michael Riemer for “making profane, offensive and denigrating remarks” before accepted his resignation Monday.
The actions stemmed from an incident at the start of the live stream for the board’s Sept. 14 discussion meeting, during which those tuning in could hear Riemer briefly using obscene language, including a derogatory word generally directed at females.
“It is very unfortunate that in fewer than 60 seconds, his use of truly horrible and vulgar language has indelibly stained his reputation,” board member Aviva Diamond said prior to the votes on Riemer’s censure and resignation. “For this reason, I accept his resignation, as this behavior is indefensible, has caused more chaos and distracts from the board’s work that needs to be done.”
She acknowledged his seven years of service on the board, as did fellow member Hugh Beal, who spoke about Riemer’s efforts particularly during the multiyear renovation of Mt. Lebanon High School.
“Mike gave hundreds of hours of his time to assist with this historic effort. The space in which we sit is where Mike, as our school resource officer, counseled our children on how to best successfully deal with bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, and many other challenges they face,” Beal said. “Mike’s departure is appropriate, but I would ask the residents to remember his 30 years of service to our community and beyond.”
Elaine Cappucci, who has served on the board for much of Riemer’s tenure, castigated his actions.
“We have all been frustrated and uttered random profanities, and if that’s all this had been, I’m not sure we would be here with these motions tonight,” she said. “This was not that. It was an angry tirade with a clearly misogynistic slur directed at some women, I believe the women on this board, although we can’t be sure. Nobody should be called this ever, period.”
She continued with a message for students.
“I hope that what this will teach you is that when you hear something or see something that is wrong, speak up. Don’t accept behavior like this. Don’t accept words that denigrate you or a group of people who may not even include you. Don’t accept apologies that don’t acknowledge the damage that was done,” Cappucci said. “Realize that actions have consequences, and do your part to make sure there are fewer of those actions.”
Board member Stephen Strotmeyer added comments from a male perspective.
“Mt. Lebanon men, please use this as a teachable moment. Let’s have the resolve to hold each other accountable, not just when it is public or caught by a hot mic, but in those private male-only situations that we know we’ve all been there,” he said. “Let’s ensure that our sons understand how this word wounds women deeply and that the repercussions should be severe.”
Sarah Olbrich, board president, explained the purpose of the two votes with regard to Riemer.
“As a board, the only action that we were legally able to take under Pennsylvania law is to censure Mr. Riemer,” she said. “The decision to resign had to be on Mr. Riemer, himself, even though we, individually, could ask him to resign. That decision was solely on Mr. Riemer.”
According to school board policy, members have 30 days to make a decision about a replacement. Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer said the process would involve advertising to fill the vacancy, having interested candidates submit résumés for board review, and board members interviewing candidates at one or more public meetings.
The time frame indicates that a vote on the new member would take place at the regular board meeting Oct. 19.