Spring Grove teen gets hate mail after protests

Written by Lillian Reed/Hanover Evening Sun | Mar 21, 2017 10:40 AM

FILE PHOTO: Protestors crowd into the Spring Grove Area School Board meeting room Monday to demand board member Matthew Jansen's resignation following a controversial tweet in February. (Photo: Lillian Reed - The Evening Sun)

(Spring Grove) -- Amy Gunzelman never thought someone would send hate mail to a 17-year-old high schooler like herself.

So when the Spring Grove Area School District junior opened a letter that arrived at her home March 11, she had a hard time swallowing what she read.

The letter, which was unsigned, criticized the teen's participation in recent protests of Spring Grove school board member Matthew Jansen and made personal attacks about her appearance.

Jansen caught backlash in February for a tweet published to his personal account, which contained an ethnic slur for Mexican immigrants who have immigrated illegally. Jansen said the tweet was the result of his account being hacked and deleted the post. He also drew criticisms in 2016 for leaving a message criticizing Islam on the answering machine of a local church.

Amy has been vocal over the past year about her desire to see Jansen resign. She believes the author of the letter might have learned her home address through her participation in public comment during school board meetings, where speakers are required to state their names and addresses for the record.

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The letter states that Amy's comments toward the school director demonstrated a "lack of common sense and intelligence."

"You demonstrate that you are an intolerant person -- a bigot," the letter states. "Look up the word in the dictionary and you will recognize yourself. I don't know Mr. Jansen, but I support his private and public freedom of speech."

Amy believes much of the letter was written out of fear or misunderstanding, she said.

"I wish they had left out the personal attacks," Amy said. "I think it would have made a better argument. Saying no one wants to marry me, no one is going to hire me, I'm not nice to look at, and I won't get any scholarships unless it's to a Communist or left wing school --  it was pretty harsh. I think if they had left out the personal attacks, it wouldn't have been quite as big of a deal."

Amy's parents reported the letter to the school district, she said Thursday. A message left for the school district was not returned Friday.

In addition to the personal attacks, the letter also contained the same ethnic slur that appeared on Jansen's Twitter account and referred to immigrants who have crossed borders illegally as criminals.

The envelope, which did not have a return address, also contained a flyer about illegal immigration, which included a phone number. When called, a man answered the phone but declined to give his name. He said he is a member of a Tea Party organization and has distributed hundreds of flyers around the country.

The sender said he or she plans to distribute the flyer, which contained similar language to the letter.

"Amy, I believe that your real problem is that you hate President Trump and Mr. Jansen is the only person you can reach to spew your hate," the letter states. "Amy show some love. Life is too short to be a bigoted hater."

Amy has no intention of rolling back her opinions in public, she said.

"I know in my heart what I'm doing is right," she said. "I'm not going to let hate win or stop me from protesting and doing what I believe is right."

This article is part of a partnership between WITF and the Hanover Evening Sun.


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