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happy valentine’s day from the albemarle county school board meeting
oberg again voiced his concern about the (imaginary) risks of building a cell tower near a school, but it passes as part of the consent agenda anyway
later tonight we will finally hear discussion of a possible ban of hateful imagery in the school dress code. so much love for @hatefreeacps for their tireless work & leadership on this issu1LP3
oberg is congratulating a school spelling bee winner. the winning word was “harangue,” which is very funny in the context of this board. i’ll use it in a sentence: i’ve seen oberg harangue constituents on more than one occasion.
an update from superintendent haas (in response to this article): he’s appointed staff to a committee to work on the possible renaming of cale elementary.

not sure why school board chair alcaro is talking about organ transplants.
he’s reading out how long various organs can be outside the body before transplant. like... a lot of organs. he never made it clear why he brought this up, but yeah, be an organ donor. it’s good.
and now public comment, but first - the long warning about how you’ll be hauled out by cops if you break the rules!
first up is someone from the local boys & girls club. quite a few members of the audience are standing in support (we are literally not allowed to make a single sound of support or encouragement of any kind, under threat of physical violence)
now a couple of kids in boys & girls club shirts talking about the importance of the program in their lives. “the boys & girls club feels like one big family” and helps them with their school work.
another staff member from the boys & girls club: having been a member & now on staff, she’s had positive & fulfilling experiences. “i have grown up with the club” and it feels like family.
she’s over time quite a bit, but they were kind enough to let her finish her comment about what the b&g club has meant for her. now hearing from the club’s CEO. they serve hundreds of kids age 6-18.
most boys & girls club serve kids year round, but the jouett location is not year round. (that must be the reason they’re here)
local families spend an average of $9,000-$12,000 per year on childcare. the $35 membership fee for boys & girls club makes childcare accessible for many local families.
he also went over his time, without any comment from the board. will they be as generous with the parents here to speak on the district’s anti racism policy?
now hearing from a mom who serves on the board of the boys and girls club. she says the community needs to do more to meet kids’ needs during “the riskiest hours, 3-6pm.”
“the boys and girls club can transform idle time into productive time.”
and now someone in support of @hatefreeacps effort to ban hate images in schools. he’s reading a passage from an essay -

“you can’t tiptoe toward justice...”
and now @paigeperriello, a pediatrician. she could talk about the physiological effects of stress, the medical effects of seeing hateful symbols in schools, how feeling unsafe can cause elevated cortisol levels...
but instead tells the board about young students of color who are her patients and stories they’ve told her about racial harassment in albemarle county schools. how students as young as 8 have told their doctor about times they felt unsafe in school.
and now nancy in favor of banning hateful imagery in schools. “if you are on the fence about voting to ban hateful imagery, i will give you 17 reasons...” she’s reading the names of the 17 lives lost in parkland one year ago today.
“one this day one year ago, a white supremacist... filled with the hate of that imagery” killed those people. “your antiracist policy as stated doesn’t go far enough,” she says.
(cops will drag us bodily from the room if we clap, but several people are crying quietly)
next up is a social worker & the community member who started the petition to remove the johnny reb statue outside the albemarle county courthouse - “you have the opportunity to make the right moral choice.”
of the confederate flag: “atrocities have been committed in its name. to allow children to wear it, to carry it into a school, is no different than having them bring in swastikas. it’s offensive, but it’s so much more than that: it’s harmful.”
this speaker says teachers are “disappointed it’s taken you guys so long.”
she asks them to think about the message they’ve been sending their staff by dragging this process out. she hopes they’ll offer adequate training & resources for implementation of the policy.
same speaker offers a quick note about the budget: the board needs to be clearer about the timeline for bus driver raises & ensure all drivers are given the raise. inconsistent application of the raise will really hurt morale.
she also says the district has had TWO staff members die recently & says the district has to be more supportive of employees, have real conversations about stress, allow employees to actually use their sick leave freely.
and now an organizer from @hatefreeacps reading a list of districts who have already banned confederate imagery in schools - districts in texas, florida, north carolina, virginia, indiana, tennessee, new york, maryland, montana... and charlottesville city schools, right next door
she recently attended a training in the groundwater method of racial equity - if you see one dead fish in a lake, you wonder what happened to the fish. if half the fish are dead, you have to analyze the water.
racial inequity is systemic.
she urges them to take a vote tonight on the dress code change. there’s no reason to keep kicking it down the road, she says.
and now another parent from @hatefreeacps - “there’s not gonna be any self congratulatory BS up here tonight, nobody in the community is ready to hear that.”
she says here hasn’t been enough community input or public discussion on the antiracism policy. the policy says parents will be made aware of racially biased curriculum... but nothing about discontinuing the use of that harmful curriculum!
she also calls out the board’s own racism. there’s been no discussion of how the board has treated members of the community for the past year.
she also says the district’s handling of classroom incident surrounding MLK day was not sufficient

she urges board members to buy & read @ZyahnaB’s new book (and you should, too!)
another parent from @hatefreeacps - when we debate whether or not something that is blatantly racist is, in fact, racist, it’s because white supremacy is in the room. “it reinforces the notion that the value of black life is debatable.”
“the value of black and brown lives is not up for debate.”
“we will continue to hold you accountable. we are here to make it impossible for you” to ignore the issue.
“ban it now. enough time has already passed.”
now hearing from star. “we are at a turning point in history. charlottesville has become a focal point for the rise of white supremacy.”
(star worked in early childhood education before the incident that made our town the focal point of the nation broke her back.)
she reminds the board that at the beginning of the summer of hate, richard spencer and his ilk marched through the festival of cultures with these hateful symbols.
“it’s really simple: if you want to show children of color that you care about them, do everything in your power to make them feel safe. that means banning hate symbols.”
and now professor walt heineke from UVA’s curry school of education. his now-grown daughter saw students wearing confederate flag shirts when she attended albemarle county schools years ago & now these symbols have been making students feel unsafe for a long time.
walt asks the board - “i encourage each one of you to put yourselves in the shoes of a young african american woman or a young jewish woman” and imagine sitting in a cafeteria, seeing those symbols in your face. especially after what we all saw here in the summer of 2017.
walt was on the steps of the rotunda on august 11, 2017. he recounts the experience & says those symbols are now the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. there’s no clapping. the audience is silent, except for the sound of some soft crying.
and that concludes public comment. board chair alcaro recaps what we heard during public comment - several speakers from the boys & girls club, followed by 10 speakers in favor of the ban.
alcaro says he’s spoken with the school board chairs in two of the district’s amanda mentioned that had already banned hate symbols. he said they had some “interesting” things to say about their motivations & processes.
there’s so much emotional whiplash in these meetings. listening to survivors of a terrorist attack, hearing the names of murdered children... but always the slow, grinding bureaucracy.
i missed the last meeting, which would’ve been alcaro’s first full meeting as chair... i think this recap of the public comment is new. i like it. it shows he was listening. god knows acuff never gave the impression she could even hear us.
oberg is now apologizing for getting upset & storming out at the end of the last meeting. wow i really missed something special!
(i’m not sure exactly what happened, but it doesn’t surprise me - oberg flies off the handle easily and often)
acuff says they recently received a letter from the county board of supervisors about their plastic waste. they’ve been asked to review food services utilization of plastic straws. (again, serious emotional whiplash)
every member of the board has a plastic bottle of water at every meeting. they’re going to look into using pitchers and cups instead. riveting stuff.
we’re talking about the 2nd quarter of the financial report and i’ve mostly stopped crying
we haven’t gotten to the agenda items of note (highlighted in red in the agenda image in the previous tweet), but @hatefreeacps is livestreaming here -

jason buyaki says the school district should invest in a buzzer system - currently any visitor can enter the school through the main entrance. steve koleszar says newtown, CT had such a system “and it didn’t make any difference.”
the presentation does include information about $30,000 for panic buttons. teachers would be able to use these to immediately contact the authorities. again, extremely bleak.
oof, $110k for security camera upgrades.
unanimous vote to put this on the next meeting’s consent agenda. now on to the after school enrichment program RFP.
aha, that explains the presence of the boys & girls club here tonight. they were one of the respondents to this request for proposals.
a motion to allow staff to enter into negotiations with the top ranked proposals passes unanimously. and now a brief break before discussion of the antiracism policy.
and we’re back! the powerpoint is online here: esb.k12albemarle.org/attachments/ad…
@hatefreeacps is livestreaming the meeting if you want to follow along at home

the draft of the antiracism policy is here: esb.k12albemarle.org/attachments/3c…
the board last discussed the policy at a december meeting. my notes from that meeting are here:

from tonight’s presentation, changes they’ve made since the last discussion of the policy & some considerations going forward. (editorial note: the lack of resources for implementation is given only a few bullet points but is a huge hurdlNjZn
acuff says because the policy hasn’t been adopted yet, resources for training weren’t included in this year’s funding requests. she wants to have some conversation on that.
superintendent haas says the funding request does triple the funding for hiring diverse staff. professional development would come from existing PD allocations, it’s just a matter of directing those funds to this particular project.
haas recalls the analogy of the fish poisoned by groundwater & adds to it the analogy of the good samaritan “do you fix the road?”
acuff asks who on staff would be the point person for implementation. haas says it would be dr hairston.
callsen asks what the timeline would be. dr hairston says “it’s not gonna be a quick process.”
she asks what the timeline is. he says “we haven’t moved forward on that yet.” she pushes again “is it gonna be next year...?”
he says they will start taking steps next month?
katrina callsen asks when the board will vote on the policy, and it sounds like that’ll be at the next meeting. koleszar says he likes the changes and is “almost ready” to vote tonight, but wants to wait until the next meeting to allow for more public input.
“anybody can write a policy,” but proper implementation is key, dr hairston says. he says the policy can be modified in the future if necessary, but mechanisms must be put in place to ensure it’s actually used.
callsen seems to want to vote tonight, but acuff says it’s standard practice of this board to receive information & wait one meeting to vote on it.
buyaki also says he likes the document & wants to vote at the next meeting, but wants to put in place a guarantee that it gets reviewed after the first year.
board chair alcaro asks if there is any objection to putting it on the next meeting’s consent agenda and several board members balk a little. buyaki says he would prefer to leave room for discussion at the next meeting.
acuff congratulates the students & staff who worked on the policy.
“if we’re waiting for perfection, we’re never gonna get there,” and agrees it should be voted on at the next meeting. no acknowledgement of the work of @hatefreeacps or other community members.
now on to discussion of the dress code. background here:
alcaro reminds us that public comment is over and asks us to give us the opportunity to listen to them? that’s not a typo. that’s what we said.
koleszar thanks the community for their input on the topic and goes on to say he opposes banning confederate imagery in schools.
“education exposes children to a torrent of new ideas” “we expect students to grapple with ideas.”
a parent from @hatefreeacps is silently protesting. the board chair has interrupted the meeting & is warning her that she’s disrupting the meeting. he’s actually the one disrupting the meeting...
koleszar is now continuing. “schools should be a physically safe space, but an intellectually challenging one.”
this old white man thinks racial intimidation is a learning opportunity.
“banning the flag might make us feel good & give is the pretense” that they are addressing racism, he says, but “implicit bias” is better addressed “by the harder route of changing the hearts and minds” of teachers and students.
i’m too angry to transcribe all of this.
acuff now. “we understand that students learn best in a safe and supportive environment.” she pushes back on the idea that the board isn’t mindful of the affect these symbols have on students. “we do understand,” saying her father in law escaped nazi germany.
but she, like koleszar, says that the first amendment protection of free speech is more important. “there would be no point” to the 1st amendment if it only protected speech everyone agreed with. “even hateful speech is nonetheless protected by the constitution.”
she says the school board has consulted with attorneys and concluded the ban doesn’t pass the tinker standard.
“i believe our schools should do what they do best” which is educating. she says a ban on these symbols wouldn’t address the real issue.

“we are not interested in weed whacking racism. we are interested in pulling it out by the roots.”
there are some disruptions from the gallery. one man says “you’re educating white kids while black kids are hurting.”
a survivor of the A12 car attack says “heather heyer died half a mile from here!”
alcaro is warning us all that we’ll be arrested for any further disruptions. the disruptions are continuing.
“you do this when we make you feel uncomfortable!”
alcaro is asking individuals to leave. one of the women who was yelling has left. a parent from @hatefreeacps is refusing. alcaro says she can stay if she’s silent.
another audience member shouts “you don’t care about black people” as alcaro reads the rules about disorderly conduct (again)

i feel sick.
“this is not a path we want to go down, i assure you,” he says, as he threatens to have mothers arrested.
the audience is still arguing with alcaro. katrina callsen says she would love to have the opportunity to share her viewpoint. the meeting is continuing now with comments from oberg.
oberg: “i respect the opinions of the people on this board,”
he says he’s heard people say banning confederate imagery doesn’t solve racism, and he agrees.
he compares it to his knee surgery. he had to take percocet, but percocet didn’t heal his knee - but it stopped the pain. you can’t heal when you’re undergoing pain.
“maybe it won’t solve anything,” but students have told him “when i see the flag, i shut down.”
oberg says he was in new york on 9/11. he lost friends who were in the towers that day. he says he shuts down when he sees images of 9/11. he doesn’t go to work on 9/11. he says there are students who have that response to seeing confederate imagery.
oberg: “if we care about their progress, we can’t ignore” their response.
“this may not fix that... but it might.”
he says he’s a rabid supporter of the 1st amendment, but schools have many limits on the 1st amendment, such as bans on gang paraphernalia.
“i think confederate imagery should be banned from our schools,” says katrina callsen. “the road is paved with flat squirrels that couldn’t make up their mind.” delaying a decision can be harmful.
callsen: our city was the site of one of the largest white supremacist hate rallies in american history. and the confederate flag was featured prominently. we can’t pretend our students aren’t affected by that.
like oberg, she says she’s heard of specific incidents that affect students, including one where a group of students taunted minority students with a confederate flag. that’s intimidation.
“we are not the model of racial equity,” she says. “it’s the least we could do.”
she disagrees with the conclusion drawn about the legal advice they received. if anybody can meet the tinker standard, it’s this community. we have a basis.
“i’m ready to vote for a ban,” callsen says. but she doesn’t think they have the votes. she asks the superintendent to come up with ways to ensure students aren’t confronted with this imagery in schools.
she cites an email from the school health advisory board that concluded that confederate imagery is harmful to albemarle county students given the events that have happened here.
“bans sweep problems under the rug,” says jason buyaki, who wore a tie with confederate flags on it to a school board meeting in august 2018
“i support free speech. i cannot willingly or knowingly violate the constitution,” buyaki says.
graham paige says he’s always associated the flag with slavery & with a culture that “did not recognize my ancestors as people.” he says t represents hate to him.
paige says the flag reminds him of a picture of a young man with that flag, a man who entered a church in charleston and murdered people at prayer.
in the past, he was not in support of the ban, fearing they could be sued. tonight, he supports the ban.
he says the comments from the community have touched his heart.
“our students saw those flags. our students saw that car moving through that crowd of people.” we cannot allow our students to be exposed to these traumatizing symbols. it affects their physical & mental health.
paige: “if we truly believe in equity, we must ban those symbols that intimidate our black students and affect their performance”
board chair alcaro says there are “differing views” on the board, so there will be no vote tonight.
he says he is “very empathetic” to students who feel uncomfortable or unsafe in schools. but he doesn’t feel symbolic gestures will “fix racism”
alcaro: “the reality is that the political hue of this board will ebb and flow over time”
(he doesn’t want to take action to reduce harm because it’s possible it could be overturned in the future. this argument is so depressing.)
alcaro: “banning symbols is a slippery slope that i really don’t wanna go down.”
he is confident the antiracism policy will put in motion... some vague nonsense?? “without waving the red flag in front of a bull.” (they are cowards)
alcaro is still talking but a parent is loudly announcing that alcaro’s at large seat is up for election this year.
i feel genuinely physically ill. these meetings are the most banal evil. roberts rules of racism. poisonous politeness.
katrina callsen says that she was initially not in favor of the ban. as a person of color, she feels like she’d been “trained” to see it & just know those people weren’t safe to associate with.
but this ban doesn’t strip anyone of their first amendment rights. “we do all kinds of things to our students,” citing a number of other dress code provides that restrict what students can wear.
both callsen and paige agree that students can celebrate that flag all they want outside of school, “they can sleep under a confederate flag blanket,” callsen says.
acuff: “i’ve struggled with this, also.” she says the strongest argument they can make is the material disruption to the learning environment (under the tinker standard)
the meeting has again ground to a halt as the board tries to eject people instead of just continuing. kate acuff is a picture of white fragility.
acuff says the courts have never held that social & emotional health meet the standard for material disruption (an audience member disagrees) but kate says an argument can be made that the community trauma we’ve experienced amplify the harm of these symbols.
“i’m not afraid to get sued,” says oberg. there is applause & some cheering.
“we would get nowhere if we didn’t say, you know what, i’m willing to go down on this one. i tell clients this all the time: maybe this is the hill we die on.” acuff tries to interrupt him, but oberg continues - if we don’t have plessy v ferguson, then we don’t get brown v board
oberg is an attorney. he says he read dozens of cases and he thinks we can do this. “it’s the right thing to do.”
“let’s go down in flames doing what we think is right,” which is again met with applause.
“we begin to die on the day that we remain silent on things that matter,” paige says, quoting MLK. he says he’s also willing to go to court over this.
i’m crying a little bit again. this community has fought so hard for this baby step. the most basic decency. the smallest acknowledgement of the harm done to students of color.
“we get sued all the time. i think we’re getting sued RIGHT NOW by several people,” says katrina callsen. she says the board is insured. and insurance exists for things like this. “we take chances to try to help our minority students.”
“if we could only help one student,” it wouldn’t be money wasted says graham paige.
steve koleszar needs to keep MLK’s name out of his fucking mouth
for the record: a white man just invoked MLK to tell a black man that banning the confederate flag is actually the real racism.
koleszar says, to an earlier comment about how the dress code bans gang symbols, that if he were rewriting the code he’d remove that. he’s a big supporter of free speech. he says if students are using the flag to bully, teachers would stop that.
he says there is a difference between the flag “just being there” and it being used to racially intimidate. (there isn’t)
“there are some things that are harmful irrespective of the motive,” says oberg. he says he trains teachers on the issue of safe touching - often teachers resist this, saying they mean those gentle pats well & have good intentions, but it can be offensive or harmful to some kids!
“it doesn’t matter if the intention is good. it’s the response it evokes.” the focus has to be on impact, not intention, says oberg.
paige talks about the giant confederate flag on 29 right near the state line. he says it is painful to think that’s the first thing people see entering our state.
callsen: “i’m not saying anything that offends me needs to be taken away.” “what i feel isn’t important,” she’s trying to make our schools safe for children.
alcaro says there will be more conversation about this at the next meeting. he says there is a lot he needs to think through.
buyaki notes that the next meeting is a work session (which takes place in a smaller space, with late public comment) so maybe this should be moved to the next business meeting.
superintendent haas says students wearing confederate imagery should be pulled aside and spoken to about the impact of those symbols.
“i’m getting impatient,” haas says. he says by his reading of the current dress code, they could interpret it to actually already ban these symbols given what has happened here.
haas is from new jersey. he recalls the first time he saw a big confederate flag in someone’s yard in virginia. “i was astounded.”
he recounts an incident early in his career when someone gave him a copy of a book called “white guilt,” saying “i think that’s what’s motivating you.”
haas references the email from the school health advisory board which cited studies that say “when students are exposed to symbols of hatred, it does in fact impact their learning”
haas: i’ve heard from students, teachers, and staff that this is an issue that is affecting students. “i understand the board has to keep talking about it,” but he wants a green light to start working with administrators to make a plan to deal with this.
“i would only be bringing you a plan,” “but i want to do something,” haas says. oberg & acuff tell him it’s a good idea. koleszar wants to put it on the agenda for discussion at the next meeting.
so superintendent haas will bring to the next meeting a plan, worked on with administrators, to communicate with students and parents that these symbols are no longer welcome in school. (it’s unclear how this will work with a board resolution not voted on?)
callsen notes that if they vote on the policy and it FAILS, it can only be brought to a vote again by the side that WON for a full year before it can be raised again by those in favor.
acuff: “are we limiting the conversation to just confederate imagery?” there was earlier conversation about a variety of hate symbols.
haas says that will be part of the plan. callsen asks “does anyone wear nazi symbols in school?” she’s not sure it’s a problem. a parent in the audience says yes. haas says there have been incidents where swastikas are drawn in the bathrooms.
so the conversation will continue at the next meeting. unclear if there will be a vote at the next meeting. alcaro says “we will work with speed not haste”
and meeting adjourned.
ok. after sitting quietly in my car for a few minutes i feel like i can drive home. i cannot properly express how ugly this has been. white supremacy is so deeply engrained in every aspect of our existence.
seeing my friends brutalized by police at a school board meeting a few months ago, hearing bored politicians blithely erase the very real harm their policies do to living breathing people, hearing survivors of white supremacist violence ignored when they bravely speak out,
being in constant fear that speaking will result in criminal charges or even physical harm, even as they use bad faith free speech arguments to perpetuate harm against children... it’s violence. these meetings are violence.
even as a white person with no children, no real stake in these school policies, i feel traumatized by this. i cannot imagine the toll this is taking on students of color and their families. this community has fought so hard. and we will continue to fight.
folks outside the cville/albemarle area must be reading this and thinking we’re some backwards fucked up exception. i wish we were. go to your own school board meetings. peel back the thin veneer of civility. you can paint over mold, but they’re all rotten at the core.
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