APS superintendent to students: ‘I’m heartbroken, as are you’

Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Joel Carstarphen, Ed.D, speaks with reporters during a meeting at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's office in Dunwoody, Georgia, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. (CASEY SYKES, CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM)
Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Joel Carstarphen, Ed.D, speaks with reporters during a meeting at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's office in Dunwoody, Georgia, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. (CASEY SYKES, CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM)

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

Cobb County school board member plans ‘call to action for anti-racism’

In a Sunday message to Atlanta students, after the city’s second day of protests, district superintendent Meria Carstarphen urged students to “be safe. Be responsible. Be respectful.”

Carstarphen, who grew up in Selma, Alabama, and has led Atlanta Public Schools since 2014, directed a Sunday  blog post to thousands of Atlanta students. She was one of several metro Atlanta school officials, including a Cobb County school board member, to speak out.

“I’m heartbroken, as are you, during these challenging times,” Carstarphen wrote.

Her message follows national protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Atlanta, largely peaceful protests later turned to looting and vandalism on Friday. By Saturday, as protests continued, additional Georgia National Guardsmen had been deployed.

Carstarphen urged students to "lead by example" and "honor the legacy of nonviolence" displayed by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, for whom an Atlanta middle school is named.

“Our district has stood with you and embraced your leadership and growth in civic engagement and the meaningful impact it can have on social change. If you are choosing to be involved, please continue to lead by example along with your caregiver/parents’ permission,” Carstarphen wrote. “As our community’s future leaders, and our students, you have led movements of national significance and we supported you during those silent and respectful protests. Continue to exhibit that kind of leadership. Follow that model for the change you seek. It’s a model for change deeply rooted in our legacy of nonviolence, and continue to make us proud.”

In Cobb County, school board member Jaha Howard announced on Facebook a 6 p.m. "call to action for anti-racism." The 45-minute event at the flagpole Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna will be family friendly and include a moment of silence, prayer, reflection and a call to action, according to the social media post.

Atlanta school board member Erika Mitchell, who represents District 5 in west Atlanta, also issued a statement Sunday. She said she feels “upset and frustrated” over the “unjust loss of our black brothers.”

“The killing of unarmed black people is unacceptable and we must do better as a nation to protect the rights of all citizens. Within these past 48 hours, I have seen protests, peaceful and destructive. But for the students, whom I serve, that feel the need to take their anger to the streets, I urge you to find a peaceful way to protest because your voice is important and should be heard,” she wrote.