Cobb school board member Randy Scamihorn has released his proposed resolution condemning racism to fellow board members ahead of the body’s Thursday meeting.
If the board passes a resolution on Thursday, it will become at least the fifth governing body in the county to have done so. The cities of Smyrna, Acworth, Marietta and Kennesaw, as well as the Cobb County Board of Commissioners have all passed resolutions in recent weeks. Smyrna was the first body in Cobb to do so, passing its resolution on June 1.
Race relations and proposals: The history
Race relations and anti-racism measures have been a point of contention on the Cobb school board for more than a year, with two Democratic board members of color, Dr. Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis, pushing for more aggressive means of ensuring equity for all students in the district.
Howard and Davis have repeatedly called on the Republican-majority board to consider measures including implicit bias and cultural relevancy training for all district staff, nontraditional means of increasing diversity among staff, a study of discipline outcome discrepancies by race and other proposals.
As protests have erupted all across the country, and in Cobb, over the deaths of African American men and women at the hands of police, these conversations have come to a head, spurring heated debates among school board members.
When on June 13, Howard and Davis revealed they’d asked in a letter to fellow board members and Cobb schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale asking again for anti-racism measures to be put in place, they said their request fell on deaf ears.
Republicans on the board said the two hadn’t gone through the proper channels to have their requests considered by the full board, and that there are policies and procedures already in place to deal with incidents of racism, incidents they say are isolated, rather than systemic.
About the same time as Howard and Davis sent their letter, Scamihorn said he placed on the board’s June 25 meeting agenda a “resolution condemning racism.” In addition, board member David Morgan, the third Democrat and African American on the board, has an agenda item entitled, “moving forward,” that is expected to include discussion of race relations, according to sources familiar with the item.
Scamihorn’s resolution document seemingly addresses a few of Howard and Davis’ points, making reference to the Cobb County School District having “long been a diverse organization that has a reputation for employing men and women of the highest ethical standards that understand and are taught the importance of equal treatment to every citizen and student.”
The resolution continues, saying the Cobb County School District is accredited, and the school board, teachers and staff receive annual training that exceeds the basic requirements set by the state.
Along with the resolution, Scamihorn sent a brief message to his fellow board members. He noted the other government bodies that have passed similar resolutions, which were “overwhelmingly and unanimously approved.”
“All of these cities and the Cobb County Commission have elected people of diverse backgrounds that concurred with the message of unity and working together,” Scamihorn’s email says. “We have an opportunity to speak with one voice to take a positive step together and teach our children a good lesson about unity. Looking forward to the discussion and remain hopeful that the resolution is received in the positive spirit intended.”
Howard declined to comment on the resolution, but said he would be offering his feedback on Tuesday. Davis declined to comment for this article.
Board Chairman Brad Wheeler echoed Scamihorn after reviewing his proposed resolution.
“I think it’s important — for the community and the kids and the schools and everybody — that the board has something we all can agree on, that we come together in unity in this fight,” Wheeler said.
Vice Chairman David Banks, who previously told the MDJ he wasn’t sure whether he’d support Scamihorn’s resolution, said Monday he “probably” would. Banks did offer edits, though. He said he’d like to see references to “racism” be changed to “ethnic discrimination,” since “racism” is too charged a word. He also said the change would “cover everything.”
For example, Banks said certain populations, like people from Brazil, are classified as white in the school district. He said changing the language would address instances like these.
But the vice chairman said even though he’d likely support Scamihorn’s proposed resolution, he still didn’t think it was the best measure.
“I always go back to our policies. Our policy covers everything, so why not just adhere to it?” Banks said.
The board will begin virtual meetings at 10 a.m. on Thursday. To tune in, visit www.cobbk12.org/board/meetingonline.aspx or tune into CobbEdTV on channel 24 for Comcast cable customers and channel 182 on Charter cable.