by Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Three years after George Floyd’s tragic death sparked a national reckoning on racial injustice, the Francis Howell School District in a St. Louis suburb has faced controversy over its response to the call for addressing racial discrimination.
In 2020, protesters took to the streets, urging the primarily white school district to take meaningful action against racism.
In response, the school board passed an anti-racism resolution, vowing to promote racial healing and denounce all forms of discrimination.
However, the recent shift in the board’s composition, with new conservative members elected since last year, has led to the revocation of the anti-racism resolution.
The resolution, which encompassed a commitment to speak out against racism, discrimination, and violence based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ability, will now be removed from school buildings.
The trend of reversing progressive policies has been seen in several parts of the country, particularly in school board elections.
Political action groups have actively campaigned to elect candidates who promise to counter teachings on race and sexuality, ban certain books deemed offensive, and oppose transgender-inclusive sports teams.
The Francis Howell district, comprising approximately 17,000 students, 87% white, found itself amid this contentious political battleground.
The Associated Press reported that the recent vote to rescind the anti-racism resolution occurred during a heated board meeting, with several individuals opposing the revocation.
Demonstrators held signs reading, “Forward, not backward,” as they voiced their concerns about preserving the district’s commitment to equality and inclusivity.
One of the main arguments made by board members in favor of the resolution’s removal was that terms like “systemic racism” lacked precise definitions and were open to various interpretations by different stakeholders.
The debate further highlighted the challenges in addressing racial issues in educational settings.
The composition of the school board has significantly changed since the resolution’s adoption, with only two members remaining from the original panel.
The election of five new conservative members, who received support from the political action committee Francis Howell Families, played a pivotal role in the resolution’s reversal.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been at the forefront of these debates, with some mistakenly associating it with the content of the anti-racism resolution.
School administrators have clarified that CRT, a scholarly theory focusing on systemic racism in institutions, is not part of the K-12 curriculum.
Nonetheless, misconceptions have fueled the controversy surrounding initiatives promoting equity and combating discrimination.
Meanwhile, racial tensions continue to be sensitive in the St. Louis region, particularly following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man, by a police officer in Ferguson nine years ago. The incident led to widespread protests and became a defining moment for the national Black Lives Matter movement.
The revocation of the Francis Howell anti-racism resolution has drawn criticism from community leaders, who fear it sets a precedent for further changes that may undermine progress toward a more inclusive district.
Zebrina Looney, the president of the NAACP in St. Charles County, warned that this action might only be the beginning of the new board’s larger agenda.
Randy Cook, the board’s vice president, insisted that there were no immediate plans to adopt the conservative political action committee’s alternative resolution.
He told the AP that he believes the board should focus on its primary role of educating students and refrain from getting entangled in divisive national politics.
Source: Published without changes from Washington Informer Newspaper