The Boise School Board Thursday took the unusual step of publicly chastising one of its board members for a social media post he wrote containing threatening, vulgar language.
Shiva Rajbhandari, a Boise High School senior and a first-year Boise school trustee, on Tuesday retweeted an article about Gov. Brad Little signing a bill that bans gender-affirming care for transgender minors.
The tweet read: “F*** you @GovernorLittle. I pray you live a long life so you can bear witness to the pain you’ve unleashed on Idaho’s children and families today. When you do die though, I’m pissing on your grave.”
The tweet sparked a firestorm of polarized reactions online, generating hundreds of retweets, responses, and comments, which ranged from expressions of gratitude to condemnation.
And it led Boise School Board President Dave Wagers to publicly apologize to the governor and upbraid Rajbhandari’s comments as damaging and inconsistent with the board’s values.
“One board member, Shiva Rajbhandari, while acting in his individual capacity strayed from the values of Respect, Dignity, and Teamwork,” Wagers wrote in a public statement. “We apologize to the Governor on behalf of the District for the language and would like all to know that Mr. Rajbhandari’s choice of words is in no way reflective of District leadership other than himself.”
In a Friday interview with EdNews, Rajbhandari apologized for his “distracting” language to Boise School District trustees, staff, patrons, and voters, to his peers, and to the transgender and non-binary community.
“I reacted before I thought and I didn’t consult my mentors and I acted like a teenager, which I am,” Rajbhandari said. “And now my language is the thing that everybody’s talking about, rather than the true problem — and that is that our legislators and our governor have overreached into the healthcare choices of Idahoans and have violated basic human rights and dignity in this law and so many others.”
Rajbhandari said that his voice, unlike that of his peers, reaches a much wider audience — which he said is “a blessing and a curse.”
“We young people might use language that detracts from the ‘adult conversation,’ but our passion is clear.”
Rajbhandari also participated in and “uplifted” a student protest of gun violence held Wednesday at Boise High School.
These recent examples of public activism — the attention-drawing tweet and the protest — are somewhat unusual behavior for school board trustees. As nonpartisan, unpaid elected officials, trustees tend to be less outspoken in their private lives and more careful about their image and public perception.
And Rajbhandari’s activism is notable in light of the recent expulsion of two Tennessee lawmakers who participated in a gun violence protest — itself a highly unusual move.
The Tennessee and Boise High protests (and others nationally) came after six people were killed in a March 27 shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, marking the 13th school shooting that has resulted in injuries or deaths this year in the United States.
But Rajbhandari said fears of being recalled as a trustee won’t stop him from political advocacy. Plus, he said, voters knew what he was like when they elected him.
“I’ve been an activist, I’ve been outspoken on a variety of social justice and environmental issues here in our state,” Rajbhandari said. “And I don’t think that trust was extended to me with any doubt that I would continue to carry on in that role.”