Petition for Anti-Racism Action from Stow-Munroe Falls School District

Petition for Anti-Racism Action from Stow-Munroe Falls School District

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Rachel Jamison started this petition to Stow-Munroe Falls School Board and

On May 25, 2020, the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in Minneapolis, MN, sparked a nationwide series of protests and marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Unlike a vast majority of businesses and organizations, the Stow-Munroe Falls School District remained silent on this movement until nearly a full month after Floyd’s murder. In the days that followed, the Board repeatedly mishandled meetings and calls for action from its citizens. During a meeting on June 29, 2020, the Board’s inaction and carelessness was brought to a head by the behavior of Vice President Lisa Johnson-Bowers.

In light of the movement against systemic racism sweeping the United States and sparked by the silence and inaction of the Stow Munroe-Falls Board of Education, this petition calls for the following immediate actions:

  • The immediate resignation of Board Vice President Lisa Johnson-Bowers in light of her egregious behavior during the June 29, 2020 meeting.
  • Mandatory anti-racism training for all current and future Board of Education members.
    • If any current Board of Education members refuse this training, this petition calls for their immediate resignation.
  • A large Black Lives Matter sign in front of every school in the SMF district, especially the high school, visible from the road. This would be an explicit, unequivocal statement that the Board of Education believes Black Lives Matter.

Additionally, the signers of this petition call for the Board of Education to immediately begin implementing these goals in earnest:

  • Creating and implementing hiring practices and recruitment strategies that work toward school staff being representative of Ohio’s demographic population.
  • Transparent and regular updates to the public on both the funding for and findings of the K-6 curriculum review
  • Expansion of the K-6 curriculum review to include revision of the whole K-12 curriculum. Revisions must include, at a minimum:
    • a race and equity class requirement at the high school level;
    • a dedicated unit within high school history classes on the historical construction of “whiteness”; and
    • a greater focus on the history and experience of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) at all grade levels and in all subjects.
  • Institution of regular anti-racism training, provided by a third-party, for all educators and employees within the SMF School District.

The issues presented and addressed here are deep, serious, and call for both immediate and long-term action. The community’s trust in the SMF school district and Board of Education has been damaged by their failure to actively educate against racism in America. Through the above actions, the Board and District can begin to repair that trust and move toward a system that fosters care, inclusivity, and the education and success of all of its students.

Greater context for this petition follows below:

On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis resident George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was slowly murdered in cold blood by police officers responding to a non-violent call. People around the country and the entire globe responded with protests and marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, demanding fundamental change to combat systemic racism in American institutions. In the days that followed, a vast number of business and local government groups issued statements in solidarity with this movement. The Stow-Munroe Falls School District, however, remained silent.

On June 22, 2020, nearly a full month after George Floyd's death and after growing pressure from the community, the school board held a meeting at which they issued a statement acknowledging the Black Lives Matter movement. A number of community members had also submitted statements to be read at this meeting about their experiences with racism in the community and school district and demanding action from their officials. However, Board President Jason Whitacre decided that none of these statements were to be read at this meeting due to the number of statements received.

After a public outcry, the Board held a special meeting on June 29, 2020 for the express purpose of reading these community statements. While most of the Board members can be seen in this meeting following along with their own copies of the statements (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rH_jw6N-PM) School Board Vice President Lisa Johnson-Bowers can be seen repeatedly looking away at a phone or other device, and smiling and laughing multiple times. At 33:20, she can be seen smiling immediately after a statement about a student committing suicide due to bullying for “being tall, lanky, and Black.”

Johnson-Bowers issued a statement on Facebook the following day, attributing her behavior to distractions in her home environment. It is her duty as an elected official to grant her full attention to these issues and to provide them with the appropriate weight and gravitas merited by the topic at hand. 

The signers of this petition are concerned with the actions of Board members and their impact, not the intent behind any action. Johnson-Bowers’s distractibility illustrates the heart of the issue: that Americans everywhere have been distracted for too long from systemic injustice that kills Black bodies and Black dreams. Her distractibility exemplifies why the Board of Education has always struggled with acknowledging and combating racism within its district. Despite the Board's issued statement promising a community-facing committee to address racism, the Board Vice President's behavior, the silence in the face of nationwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter, and the initial dismissal of community statements during a Board meeting all speak to a system that requires immediate reform.

In her official statement regarding her behavior at the June 29th Board meeting, Vice President Johnson-Bowers stated she fully supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Emails obtained through a public records request tell a different story (read the emails here), with Vice President Johnson-Bowers first in opposition to an official statement from the board that Black Lives Matter; then pressing for an official statement that referred to ‘all lives’; and finally insisting that ALL LIVES MATTER. The intent of that phrase to neutralize and silence the fight to make Black lives finally matter in the United States has been well-explained and well-understood since at least 2014. The signers of this petition believe no progress can be made when an individual clinging to these ideologies continues to sit on the Board of Education.

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