Cobb school board divided on resolution against racism

Members can't agree on whether the phrase "systemic racism" should appear in its resolution
The Cobb County School Board is divided on the wording of a resolution that would address racism. Photo: Cobb County School District

The Cobb County School Board is divided on the wording of a resolution that would address racism. Photo: Cobb County School District

Nearly two months after a Black man’s death in police custody sparked global protests against racism, Cobb school board members can’t agree on how they want to communicate their position to the public.

Board members met Thursday but did not pass a resolution drafted to denounce racism. The resolution, written by board member Randy Scamihorn, was initially considered at the board’s June meeting, but tabled until last week to allow school board members to work together on language the seven-member body could unanimously support.

School boards and governments in Georgia and around the country have approved their own resolutions denouncing racism following the May 25 death of George Floyd. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other cops have been charged in connection with Floyd’s death after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

READ | Cobb school board members split on how to address racism

The Cobb school board is at an impasse on whether the phrase “systemic racism” should appear in its resolution. Concerns were also raised by some board members that the resolution made no mention of incidents of policy brutality toward Black people or what action the school district could take to address racism.

Board member David Morgan, who volunteered last month to work with Scamihorn and board member Dr. Jaha Howard to introduce a compromise resolution, said it would be bad optics for the board to approve a resolution without the support of its Black members. Morgan, Howard and Charisse Davis are Black while Scamihorn, Chairman Brad Wheeler, David Banks and David Chastain are white.

“If this becomes a situation where there’s division, we’re all going to lose,” he said. “It will perpetrate a thought that we are missing the mark when it comes to issues of race.”

READ | Cobb, Marietta school leaders answer ‘call to action’ against racism

Howard added he believed it would be an embarrassment for the board to approve the resolution because Scamihorn did not solicit input from Black board members before writing the document.

“I think it’s already been an embarrassment and for us to put a stamp on it and etch it in stone with an official vote is problematic, to say the least,” he said.

Scamihorn said his resolution was modeled after others that were passed in the metro area. He also said he was trying to build a positive document that everyone could support.

This latest issue is also another example of how racial and political divisions on the Cobb County School Board have come to light over the past 18 months. The board consists of four white Republicans: Wheeler, Scamihorn, David Chastain and David Banks. Charisse Davis, Dr. Jaha Howard and David Morgan are all Black Democrats.

READ | BOE members denounce Arbery killing, call for anti-racist education

Board members split along racial and political lines when they rejected Davis’ nomination to serve as vice chair for 2020; did not take action on a proposal by Morgan that would change how the board elects its chair; and chose to remove board member comments at the end of the meeting agendas.

School systems for Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb and Cherokee counties, as well as the cities of Atlanta and Marietta have either issued proclamations or written letters to their students, faculty, staff and parents following protests around the nation that began following the deaths of Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery was fatally shot Feb. 23 after he was confronted by two white men over alleged burglaries in their Glynn County neighborhood. Three white men have been charged with murder in connection with Arbery’s death.

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