A new Collier County school board member is getting lots of attention, and not the good kind. Jerry Rutherford’s comments about bringing back paddling and disruptive disabled students having too many freedoms are taking lots of criticism.
A TikToker with 300,000 followers is now urging people to send emails to Superintendent Doctor Kamala Patton and Rutherford himself. The email is pre-written and says Rutherford is “Unfit to serve” as a school board member because of his “Abusive and abhorrent” comments about paddling and disabled students.
Rutherford denies suggesting paddling. He said his words have been twisted and that he never said corporal punishment should be brought back.
He always knew his words would make waves, though.
“I wish I had not said something about the paddling because that’s gonna open up. I would appreciate if you would eliminate that part of it because I don’t need to start a war,” said Rutherford on November 8, and it did start a war.
People on social media are up in arms about comments like this on paddling:
Rutherford: “And so I got sent to the office and had the board of education presented to me, and I didn’t want to go back again. We need discipline, if it’s not in the home, it’s got to be somewhere.”
Laura Loray: “So you think paddling students is going to make education better,”
Rutherford: “It’s not going to make education better. It’s going to make discipline better.”
He also talked about disabled students:
Rutherford: “I can tell you, because of the disabilities act, one teacher in California quit because persons on the disability role, they have some freedoms that they really ought to bring into. What what’s the word I want to use? There’s too much freedom.”
Laura Loray: “And I was immediately appalled.”
Laura Loray is one of the people on TikTok pushing back against Rutherford’s comments.
She wants her 300,000 followers to join her email campaign on the website “Rally starter,” calling for Rutherford’s removal.
“Everybody needed to come together to say, this is something that we cannot, we cannot allow to happen,” said Loray.
School board members Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter also received emails about removing Rutherford.
Carter said in a statement that he supports the current school board policy prohibiting corporal punishment.
Lucarelli also sent a statement, saying in part: “Once he takes the time to educate himself on the children we serve, (especially our special needs children), the laws, our policies, and how we do things here in collier county, I think he will see the errors in his statements.”
Both Lucarelli and Carter also pointed out that the only person with the power to suspend school board members is the governor.