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Francis Howell School District votes to allow anti-racism resolution, other resolutions to expire

"By removing this, it's sending the wrong message," said Amy Easterling prior to Thursday's vote.

O'FALLON, Mo. — The police killing of George Floyd sparked rallies and resolutions.

An anti-racism resolution was created in 2020 at the Francis Howell School District. The Francis Howell School Board passed a resolution following that summer, saying it stands firmly against all acts of individual and systemic racism.

The resolution is currently displayed in classrooms and throughout schools. On Thursday evening, the school board voted 5-2 to pass a new policy that rescinds the resolution.

The policy, sponsored by board newcomer and vice president Randy Cook, automatically ends resolutions after 75 days if the majority of the current board wasn't around at the time the resolution passed.

That would include the anti-racism resolution and two others on school choice and personal property taxes. 

Five of the seven current board members didn't sign the resolution. 

Here's how Thursday's vote on whether to rescind the resolutions broke down:

  • Yes: Adam Bertrand, Randy Cook (sponsor), Jane Puszkar, Ron Harmon, Mark Ponder
  • No: Chad Lange, Janet Stiglich

Chad Lange originally signed the resolution in 2020 and stands firm by his decision. He made a post expressing his concerns on Facebook.

Pastor B.T. Rice has grandchildren in the district and he participated in the George Floyd marches. Before Thursday's vote, he told 5 On Your Side he was protesting the policy change.

"I totally disagree because it seems it's retrogression rather than progression," Rice said.

Amy Easterling ran for the board of education but now sits on the board for Francis Howell Forward,  a group dedicated to diversity and inclusion.

Easterling, who has one child in the district and another recent graduate, said prior to the vote that she worries about the resolution being taken down.

"They will be removed for any place it's displayed. The only resolution in Francis Howell that's up is the resolution against racism, so it’s pretty clear which resolution we have a concern about. I would prefer if they don’t like it ... to be bold enough to say why and vote to end it," Easterling said. 

"I know there are board members concerned about it and talked about it on social media about what's written or the words used. The way the policy is written, they don’t have to go to the community to say that, they can quietly let it go away under the guise that this is just any resolution that we want to sunset at any point of time," she said. "By removing this, it's sending the wrong message."

Easterling said she's heard of Black students having issues and facing racism currently. 

Rice echoed the same message. 

"It seems to suggest that there is no racial differences and everything is alright and we listen to our students and know their reports, that is not the case. We know the importance of keeping hope alive," Rice shared. 

5 On Your Side will stream the Thursday evening meeting live. You can watch it in the below video player:

The St. Charles County NAACP shared this statement:

"This is the last attempt to dismiss the inequities in this school district. Our children deserve an opportunity to receive an education in an environment where they can be seen, heard and valued."

Cook sent 5 On Your Side this statement:

These following comments are my own, and not made on behalf of the Francis Howell School District or the Board of Education. They are merely comments of one Board of Education member.

I would like to clarify that the Board of Education is not planning to discuss the 2020 Resolution in Response to Racism and Discrimination at our July 20 meeting. We are discussing, and planning to vote on, a policy that addresses the manner in which resolutions are sunset, and disseminated, and how the public would be made aware of those Board actions. To be sure, the proposed policy we will be voting on applies to all resolutions except those which otherwise bind the District or the Board to specific legal obligations and except those resolutions that are celebratory in nature—such as those recognizing the accomplishments and/or contributions of an individual, group of individuals, or an organization. If approved, the policy in question (Policy 0299) would sunset/rescind the 2020 Resolution in Response to Racism and Discrimination in addition to all other resolutions not specifically exempted. 

The proposed Policy 0299 can be read here.

The 2020 Resolution in Response to Racism and Discrimination can be viewed here.

I do not feel the school district needs a resolution against every evil in society that we are against, such as racism. School boards in Missouri are tasked, by law, with addressing the needs of the school district by making all needful rules and regulations for the organization, grading and government in the school district. School board members are elected to do those things—not to spend time writing and debating resolutions about all of the problems in the world today.

I was not on the Board of Education in 2020 when the Resolution in Response to Racism and Discrimination was agreed to. I will point out that the first sentence of the resolution commits the Board to "speak firmly against any racism, discrimination, and senseless violence..." It does not distinguish between such acts in Francis Howell or across the globe. Since adopting the resolution, the Board has not once spoke out against any acts of racism, discrimination, or senseless violence, whether in Francis Howell School District or elsewhere. In fact, the Board cannot speak publicly about these issues within the school district, as they are usually related to students and/or staff, and discussion of individual student or staff investigations in a public Board meeting is prohibited. I believe the Board had the very best of intentions when they adopted this resolution, but carrying out the commitments made by prior Board members has many challenges.

Furthermore, I will point out that the 2020 resolution uses several terms that are not defined in said resolution, such as “senseless violence,” “racial healing,” “equitable,” “anti-racist/antiracism,” “systemic racism,” “socially just community,” “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion.” It is my observation that these terms have different meanings to different people—they are not widely agreed upon terms anymore, if they ever were. Using this kind of language leaves a lot of room for different interpretations and controversy. Again, I believe the prior Board had good intentions here, but many have questioned the definition of these terms.

Finally, the Francis Howell School District has long standing policies and a Code of Student Conduct that formally spell out the process for investigation of, and consequences for, specific instances of racism and discrimination; no change is being made to those documentsacts of racism and discrimination still result in heavy consequences within Francis Howell.

Again, these comments are my own, and not made on behalf of the Francis Howell School District or the Board of Education. They are merely comments of one Board of Education member.

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