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Read Black Lives Matter statements from Atlanta school board, superintendent

Corri Griffith, 5, takes a rest as she and her father Corey Griffith, who was close by, listen to demonstrators speak during a rally near the steps of Atlanta City Hall during the fourth day of protests in Atlanta, Monday, June 1, 2020. Corri and her father created the Black Lives Matter sign that she held during the rally. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Corri Griffith, 5, takes a rest as she and her father Corey Griffith, who was close by, listen to demonstrators speak during a rally near the steps of Atlanta City Hall during the fourth day of protests in Atlanta, Monday, June 1, 2020. Corri and her father created the Black Lives Matter sign that she held during the rally. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The nine-member Atlanta school board released a statement on police brutality, calling for the dismantling of “a racist and oppressive system that has an over 400-year legacy.”

The school board released the statement after Chairman Jason Esteves read it out loud during a June 1 meeting, at which the board also held a moment of silence to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

“We are heartbroken and upset by these recent events. But the murders of black men and women by vigilantes and police are not new, and it is important for the board to reaffirm that Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with those peacefully advocating for change and are committed to doing our part to channel the anger and hopelessness our community feels into sustained and effective change,” read the statement, in part.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen on June 5 issued a statement that followed a May 31 blog post she wrote addressing the Atlanta protests.

In her most-recent comments, Carstarphen wrote: “Let me be clear, we can all do something to dismantle systemic racism because black lives matter.”

Meria Carstarphen's full statement:

All of us in Atlanta Public Schools have been left saddened and heartbroken with the civil unrest and challenging times we are facing in our community and across this nation. Amid our efforts to cope with a global pandemic, we now must confront the hurt, pain, disappointment, and other emotions that have resurfaced about the racial injustice crisis following the alarming and tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and others.

We are 52,000 students and 6,000 staff members strong. With caregivers and parents, the APS community stands at easily more than 100,000 good people who can make a difference. Let me be clear, we can all do something to dismantle systemic racism because black lives matter. 

Our district has supported peaceful demonstrations against gun violence and climate change. It has stood with students and staff, embracing their leadership and growth in civic engagement and the meaningful impact it can have on social change. We have encouraged activism that follows city and state directives and heeds the words of one of this community’s most cherished civil rights icons, Representative John Lewis: “Be constructive, not destructive. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way.” 

As a district, we continue to support students and employees who exercise their First Amendment rights to engage in peaceful protest and to petition our government for redress of grievances. We have ensured them that the District will not take adverse action against any employee arrested for engaging in peaceful protest. We have strongly encouraged them to follow the law and protocols if they decide to engage in protests or demonstrations outside of work hours or on personal time.

The Atlanta Board of Education stands in support as well as it wrote in its own statement that “the work of dismantling a racist and oppressive system that has an over 400-year legacy will not be easy and requires people of all communities coming together to address inequities.”

Such a position follows ongoing efforts in Atlanta Public Schools to do its part in effecting change and to putting an end to racial injustice and inequities.

Through the development of the District’s new strategic plan and our work to implement a new equity policy, APS is committed to acknowledging and addressing the impacts of systemic racism on our education system. We are focused on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace that uplifts everyone’s unique voice and values the input and engagement of the community. We are taking a stand and implementing actions that uphold racial justice and equity.

These actions at the District level signal the need for each of us as individuals and as a community to become active participants in this change, ensuring every decision we make is in the best interest of our students and is sharpened through the lens of equity.

Although we are apart, we are in this together! We will find strength as we find our way through this as a school community!

Read the APS board's full statement here: