Who is Frances Cogelja? Anti-LGBTQ school trustee caught pants down in bathroom during Zoom call with 150 people

Cogelja didn’t realize she’d left her laptop camera on when she took it with her to the bathroom and was seen relieving herself during the video meeting

                            Who is Frances Cogelja? Anti-LGBTQ school trustee caught pants down in bathroom during Zoom call with 150 people
Frances Cogelja (Hackensack School District)

After accidentally being caught with her pants down on the toilet, relieving herself in front of 150 people in a Zoom meeting, including students, a New Jersey school board member resigned. Frances Cogelja, a trustee on the Hackensack Board of Education didn’t realize she’d left her laptop camera on when she took it with her while going to the bathroom on Monday, November 23. At the time the public comments portion of a Zoom meeting where her colleagues and students participated was in progress. Her laptop camera captured her relieving herself while she was unaware of the same. 

Last year, Cogelja was forced to apologize after she called new state laws that require teaching about LGBTQ history “repugnant.” In a series of emails, she reportedly told acting Superintendent Rosemary Marks that she was "disgusted and appalled" that LGBTQ history would be added to the syllabus by September 2020. 

According to North Jersey, Cogelja said an “alternate lifestyle narrative is being shoved [down] our children's throats” and enquired about how she could opt her child out of learning about the topic. "I have every right as a parent to not have my child participate in something that I do not think is suitable as part of a public school curriculum," Cogelja reportedly said. "I believe conversations having to do with sexuality should be had at home between parents and their children."

Since the Monday's incident did not occur during the main portion of the meeting, the link was posted online of the recording of the meeting did not showcase Cogelja's embarrassing moment. However, a small thumbnail showing Cogelja on another screen that wasn't recorded was noticed by one of the eagle-eyed participants in the meeting and a photograph of the same was posted to a message board.

Although no one immediately said anything when she returned from her trip to the toilet, a while later, New Jersey board's vice president Scott James-Vickery reportedly told Cogelja: “You need to go. We’re here trying to get work done while you’re sitting on the toilet.” BOE President Lancelot Powell later said that Cogelja couldn’t be removed because she was an elected official. “We can’t make her resign,” he reportedly said. “None of us can kick off a board member."

The board announced the day after that that the trustees "have received a letter of resignation from Mrs. Frances Cogelja, effective November 24, 2020." The trustees have until January 29 to fill the vacancy. Before she decided to take a toilet break during the meeting, Cogelja’s attempt to have their election date moved from April of next year to November was rejected by the board members of her school.

At the time when she had made the anti-LGBTQ comments, several board members and local officials – among them, Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco and Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton – to call for her resignation. A Change.org petition calling for her to step down was started and gathered more than 1,900 signatures. She was called a bigot by the civic group For Hackensack's Future. After the recent incident, the group said that she also "has threatened members of the public, who she said she doesn't respect. She abstained on a symbolic vote committing the district to anti-racism. She voted to extend her own term by eight months."

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