Cobb school board stymied on resolution against racism

Cobb County School Board members could not come to a consensus Thursday on the wording of a resolution denouncing racism proposed by board member Randy Scamihorn.

During the four-hour session, the seven-member board couldn’t agree on whether the phrase “systemic racism” should appear in the 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.

Jaha Howard asked whether Scamihorn would agree to inserting the phrase “systemic racism” in the resolution. That, according to Scamihorn, was a “nonstarter” because the phrase is an “indictment” of school district employees.

Scamihorn also engaged in a testy exchange with Charisse Davis, the only female and one of three Black board members, who took issue with his position. Davis said research over the years had documented racial disparities in advanced academic programs and discipline referrals.

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“I can’t support a resolution that just checks the box for us and doesn’t get at how we can better,” she added.

Scamihorn, who is white, said his resolution was a way for the board to unite behind rejecting racism.

“We have an opportunity to speak with one voice and take a positive step forward,” he said.

Howard asked whether Scamihorn reached out to individual board members to get their input before writing his resolution. Scamihorn said he solicited comments when he sent out a copy of his resolution.

But Davis said Scamihorn never responded to her reply to his email. She said the draft "does not acknowledge the racism that's right here in our own house." She also pointed out that Scamihorn's resolution doesn't mention George Floyd, the Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police, sparking nationwide protests condemning police brutality and racism.

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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.

Howard had also written a resolution, but it wasn’t discussed. Board member David Morgan encouraged both Scamihorn and Howard to work together on a compromise resolution. The issue is expected to come back to the board at its July 16 meeting. Morgan also agreed to act as an intermediary throughout the process.

Board Chairman Brad Wheeler said it was important that all board members look at the proposals through different lenses and that they find common ground on which to come together.

“This needs to be 7-0,” he said.

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