Missouri school board that voted to drop anti-racism resolution might consider a revised version

The president of the Missouri school board that voted to revoke its anti-racism resolution now says the resolution could be kept, but revised

Jim Salter
Wednesday 26 July 2023 17:32 BST

The president of the Missouri school board that voted to revoke its anti-racism resolution now says the resolution could be kept, but revised.

The Francis Howell School Board in 2020 adopted a resolution against racism at the height of the national reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Control of the board flipped over the past two years, with conservatives winning elections, and it voted 5-2 last week to let the resolution expire.

But in a Facebook post Tuesday, board President Adam Bertrand said that although support for the 2020 resolution as written is unlikely, “there may be support of a rewrite or modification.” Bertrand said member Mark Ponder will seek input from other board members and the community, “to move towards a draft that he feels the majority of the current board feels the community could support.”

Messages left Wednesday with Bertrand and Ponder were not immediately returned.

Zebrina Looney, president of the St. Charles County NAACP, said she is hopeful that the resolution can be maintained and hopes that her organization can be involved in any revisions.

“I think having all voices involved, including voices of people of color, would be beneficial,” Looney said.

School board elections have become intense political battlegrounds in recent years, with political action groups successfully electing conservative candidates who promise to restrict how race and sexuality can be taught, remove books that some conservatives find offensive, and stop transgender-inclusive sports teams.

The Francis Howell district is among Missouri’s largest, with 17,000 students in a mostly white suburban area of St. Louis. Several dozen people opposed to rescinding the resolution turned out for the school board meeting last Thursday, and the vote drew strong condemnation from the NAACP other civil rights groups.

The 2020 resolution “pledges to our learning community that we will speak firmly against any racism, discrimination, and senseless violence against people regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability."

The board's vice president, Randy Cook, led the effort to remove the resolution, telling The Associated Press that the board “doesn’t need to be in the business of dividing the community.”

Cook is among five board members who have been elected since April 2022 with the backing of the conservative political action committee Francis Howell Families.

In 2021, the PAC described the anti-racism resolution as “woke activism” and drafted an alternative resolution to oppose “all acts of racial discrimination, including the act of promoting tenets of the racially-divisive Critical Race Theory, labels of white privilege, enforced equity of outcomes, identity politics, intersectionalism, and Marxism.”

Cook said last week that he had no plans to push for a new resolution with that wording, or any other wording. In an email Wednesday, he said school boards are tasked with addressing the needs of their districts, “not to spend time writing and debating resolutions about all of the problems in the world today.”

Racial issues remain especially sensitive in the St. Louis region, nine years after a police officer in the suburb Ferguson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown during a street confrontation. Officer Darren Wilson was not charged and the shooting led to months of often violent protests, becoming a catalyst for the national Black Lives Matter movement.


Find more AP coverage of race and ethnicity issues: https://apnews.com/race-and-ethnicity

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