The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education passed a resolution expressing sorrow for the killing of George Floyd and condemned “racism in any form” in their Monday night meeting.
The Board also resolved to uphold their equity policy.
The resolution, drafted, read, and moved by District 1 Board Member Charles Henry and seconded by District 5 Board Member Ruth Veales, passed unanimously.
George Floyd was a black man who was killed by a Minneapolis Police officer after the officer placed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes resulting in Floyd’s death.
Protests throughout the nation, including Oklahoma City, have been held in his name and in the name of others who have been killed by the police.
Supt – “listen more”
The resolution passed without any discussion quickly.
In his report to the Board, Superintendent Sean McDaniel focused on the events around George Floyd’s death and the ongoing concern for racial understanding especially in OKCPS where so many people of multiple ethnicities encounter each other.
McDaniel told the board, “I have been saddened, I’ve been sickened. And, I’ve been angry at what has played out on our televisions, in our society in our community with regard to how people of color have been treated.”
The Superintendent went on to say that he considered this sad and intense moment in U.S. history to be “an opportunity to re engage in this critical conversation.”
“I’m saying that the conversation that we’re getting ready to have is the most important conversation in my lifetime,” continued McDaniel.
He said that the conversation, then, has to be followed up with action.
“I want to commit to this board, I want to commit to my team, that I’m going to do what I can do,” said McDaniel. “I am going to listen more, I’m going to learn, I’m going to be open to conversation, I’m going to insist from my position as superintendent on action.”
Ruth Veales, now the Board member with the most years of service out of the seven members and chair, expressed appreciation for the conversations she had had with the superintendent about racial issues in the district.
But, she went on to say more about the problems that she believes still exist.
“These are the things that I have been talking about for years now — about having these courageous conversations as it relates to race, oftentimes misunderstood,” Veales said.
She went on to say that she hoped everyone on the Board would “take it into their heart” and do self-evaluation and to see what it is we need to do as a board to be a real board.”
Then, Veales showed her level of frustration with what some constituents believe to be simple accommodation instead of earnest listening.
“Again, I refuse to be a prop during this time,” said Veales. “And, that to continue kicking the can down the road and hoping that this is going to be just a movement, a motion that we’re going through across this nation, but that it will become a movement that it must be in order for us to change things that we are going through and have seen for years and years and years. And even personally, as I have felt on this board.”
“Ms. Veales, I just want to thank you for our conversations. I’ve learned more from you in the last couple of years than I could even begin to say so I appreciate your mentorship. I appreciate your honesty with me.”
Here is the entire resolution as passed by the Board Monday night:
Whereas, tragically, On March 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, George Perry Floyd, a Black man, died unjustifiably at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, while they knelt on his neck and back for approximately eight minutes and forty-six seconds, while Mr. Floyd lay face down repeating the words “I can’t breathe;” and,
Whereas, people of all racial backgrounds in cities all across this Nation, including Oklahoma City, OK, have exercised their fundamental rights to free speech, expression, and assembly to peacefully protest, march, and rally, in order to focus on seeking justice for the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others that have died unjustifiably, and to take advantage of this opportunity to direct unified energy and attention toward making long-term improvements to race relations in the this City, State, and our Nation; and,
Whereas, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a true voice and advocate for racial justice around the world, stated “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity” and “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. These words ring true today as demonstrated across this country by young people of all ages, who seek to release the bands of racial injustice in our legal system, schools, and communities; and,
Whereas, Black Lives Matter, and should matter to all people just as much as any other life. The voices of Black and Brown people who have endured marginalized opportunities and who continue to suffer from racial injustice and unlawful actions of law enforcement officers seek to be heard for the goal of American racial solidarity.
Therefore, be it resolved, Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) and its Board of Education extends its deepest condolences for George Floyd, his family, friends, and community, and to all the lives lost to racial injustice; and to the thousands of people seeking to improve race relations in America; and,
Be it further resolved, OKCPS and its Board of Education must condemn racism in any form and, must also believe that the long term, systemic solution to the problem of implicit bias, institutional racism, structural racism, and bigotry can and should be addressed by the public school systems in this country, through intentional acts, to provide equal opportunities for all children to have a high-quality education; and,
Be it further resolved, OKCPS and its Board of Education must uphold its commitment to our equity policy and to the work that must be done to root out practices stemming from implicit bias, prejudice, and discrimination, by implementing our educational equity framework, continuing our work with the Student Experience and Equity Committee, and providing training to every district employee to recognize and correct implicit and explicit bias.
Dated this 8th day of June 2020.
Drafted by Charles Henry, District 1 Board Member with support from Ruth Veales, District 5 Board Member
Feature photo by Lorie Shaull and published under the Creative Commons license. Caption: The George Floyd mural outside Cup Foods at Chicago Ave and E 38th St in Minneapolis, Minnesota
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