Thetford officials suspend rec director over TikTok posts

  • Nathan Maxwell coaches his Thetford youth baseball team on proper form before batting practice in Post Mills, Vt., Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2020 9:13:28 PM
Modified: 11/24/2020 9:13:25 PM

THETFORD — Town officials on Tuesday suspended Recreation Director Nathaniel Maxwell indefinitely with pay while they investigate whether he posted a threatening comment against a woman on the popular social media site TikTok.

Dozens of people had raised concerns about the post, and also a separate video purportedly made by Maxwell in which he makes crude comments about women and not wearing a face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The town has heard a lot about this and we take it very seriously,” Interim Town Manager Tom Yennerell said Tuesday evening, adding that officials had received around 30 emails and several calls complaining about the post. He declined to discuss the investigation further, but said officials hope to complete it and determine a response soon.

“We are deeply concerned by recent comments we received from the public. We do not condone derogatory or distasteful language under any circumstance — we take this very seriously,” the Selectboard wrote in a statement on the Thetford Recreation Facebook page Tuesday evening.

Maxwell has been the town’s recreation director for four years, hiring coaching staff for youth sports, overseeing the town’s Treasure Island recreation area and handling the department budget, according to his LinkedIn page.

He worked for Thetford Academy in spring 2019, coaching the junior varsity baseball team, but has not worked for the school since.

A post from Maxwell on the Treasure Island Facebook page late Monday evening read, “I want to apologies (sic) for anyone that has come across a social media posting. I would like to be clear that I would never, and did never make this type of statement. I’m not sure how this was created but, simply is not true. I value many walks of lives (sic) and have great compassion for all. Sincerely, Nathan.”

Yennerell on Tuesday confirmed that Maxwell had written the Facebook post and that the town subsequently took it down. He said the town has also closed comments on other Facebook posts, all in an effort to keep the videos from being reposted and viewed by more people.

“There’s a vulnerable population that looks at these sites,” he said, adding the town hopes to get the pages and comments working again soon.

Messages to Maxwell seeking comment were not returned on Tuesday.

The issue stems from a message apparently sent in recent days from the TikTok username @nathanielmaxwell0, named on the profile as Nathaniel Maxwell, to another user, @Kali_ma_Tx, named on the profile as Yiskāh Rai Liutheri Rummeln, on the popular social media site used primarily by teenagers and young adults to post short videos. The message appears to reference a religious mark worn by Hindus, commonly called a Bindi, which @Kali_ma_Tx was wearing in her videos.

“I don’t know but thanks for the target on the forehead … that makes things easier,” @nathanielmaxwell0’s comment read, according to a screenshot @Kali_ma_Tx posted in a subsequent video.

It was not clear which of @kali_ma_Tx’s videos the comment was responding to. @Kali_ma_tx, who describes herself as a “radical feminist leftist activist” on her Twitter page where she goes by the name Jessica Luther Rummel, shares videos that are against Donald Trump, the Confederate flag and right-wing views. Rummel has studied Ku Klux Klan culture, Protestant theology and the normalization of white supremacist ideologies at the University of North Texas, according to a school webpage.

Attempts to reach Rummel on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

@nathanielmaxwell0’s comment about the “target” and the account have since been taken down, but not before @Kali_ma_tx shared it with her nearly 80,000 followers on her TikTok page.

“Do you really think it’s a good idea to go on social media and threaten to shoot people in the head because they don’t share your political and religious beliefs? Especially considering all of your social media is so public,” she said, before sharing images of Maxwell’s Facebook page, the official Thetford website and the Thetford Academy website, where Maxwell used to coach.

She added that she has written to the Thetford town manager, and shared his email address in the video, encouraging others to do the same.

Since then, town officials have received a deluge of calls and complaints about Maxwell via email and phone as well as on various town Facebook pages, including the Treasure Island page. The messages, many of which call for Maxwell to lose his job, are coming from Upper Valley social media users as well as many users across the country.

“I wouldn’t feel safe in any town he has any say in or any business he has any say in,” wrote Nevada resident Asher Gilbertson.

Some people also drew attention to a video posted on @nathanielmaxwell0’s TikTok account in June, in which he says he refuses to wear a mask for the “same reason I drink alcohol, chew tobacco, f--- women without a rubber, don’t wear a seatbelt when I drive; because I just don’t give a f---.”

“We are aware of these posts and we are taking them very seriously,” Selectboard member Nick Clark wrote in a Tuesday email to the Valley News about the incident, referring a reporter to Yennerell for further comment.

Thetford Academy was also caught up in the fray because Maxwell was listed on the school’s website as the junior varsity baseball coach. School officials said in an email to the Valley News on Tuesday that Maxwell was hired for the 2019 spring season but is no longer employed there and their website had not been updated.

Still, they received numerous phone calls, emails and Facebook posts beginning at 10:30 p.m. Monday night and lasting through the morning on Tuesday, according to Head of School Carrie Brennan.

“It’s gone completely viral. It’s pretty amazing,” Brennan said, adding that one caller threatened to contact the FBI.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, school officials wrote that that they do not agree with the comment in the video.

“We find the content of the posts reprehensible. Thetford Academy unequivocally rejects and condemns racism, and does not tolerate racist, violent, or hateful behavior or speech,” the statement said.

Police Chief Michael Evans said his department has not received any complaints of threats, but that they would investigate the post if they found it was made from within the town of Thetford.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-72 7-3216.




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