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walked into the albemarle county school board meeting during superintendent matt haas’s remarks about the recent incident in which an elementary school teacher alienated and traumatized black students with a “teaching exercise”
the incident was last month. dr haas is satisfied with the teacher’s apology and she is now back in the classroom.

aaand now on to the antiracism policy. it’s been moved & seconded that they accept the new policy.
the text is heesb.k12albemarle.org/attachments/7c…0Kd4
koleszar says “it’s not just a policy, it’s an antiracism project.” “we need to make sure we aggressively parent outreach & not wait for parents to be involved,” he’s repeating a suggestion someone have to him.
koleszar has asked for a roll call vote. katrina callsen asks where the students who worked on the policy are - they don’t seem to be here tonight.
the motion to adopt the antiracism policy passes unanimously.
superintendent haas is now addressing the board on the matter of standards of student dress. he announced at the last meeting he would come back tonight with a plan.

he will use the existing dress code guidelines & his authority as the superintendent to prohibit racist imagery in schoobqWf
“we are a diverse community that is growing more diverse all the time.” “this is not your grandparents’ albemarle county schools.”
“i see the growing diversity in our schools as a positive trend,” says haas.
albemarle county public schools has students from 89 countries of origin, speaking 74 home languages. the district is 56th most diverse out of 133 school systems in the commonwealth.
“for all of our children to do well in school and in life, they need to be safe.”
as superintendent, it is his responsibility to ensure students have a safe learning environment.
haas cites many of the same reasons we’ve heard from community members during public comment
haas notes that there may be free speech concerns about the decision he’s made. “most people stop there,” after reading the first sentence of the tinker decision, that students don’t lose their free speech at the schoolhouse door. but disruptive speech is not protected in school.
“images of white supremacy should not be permitted in our schools because they cause substantial disruption.” “i can draw no other conclusion,” haas says.
the survey data from 2017-2018 isn’t available, but in 2016 over a third of albemarle high students strongly agreed that there was race based bullying.
haas says they will prioritize gathering this data going forward.
i hope this helps those board members who have said in previous meetings they don’t think there is a problem in the schools.
he notes that these are only the incidents that were reported to principals. there are likely more.
haas says he personally was called out to a school sporting event to an incident where a student was waving a confederate flag to intimidate and antagonize black students from another school.
haas says a few years ago a parent emailed a black principal, calling them the “head n-word in charge.”
ultimately, the parent had to be prohibited from coming into contact with that principal.
haas has already presented this plan to the principals.
they will handle these dress code infractions the same way they handle any dress code infraction.
haas says there are only 2 consequences for dress infractions: warning and parent teacher conference.
if the student repeatedly violates the policy, it’s not about the dress code, it’s about defiance. “we’re investing a lot in programs not to suspend students.”
quoting dr martin luther king, he says “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. and we love these students.” the goal is to counsel students so that they can be part of a productive and safe learning environment.
“i won’t say i’m impatient. i’m worried. this situation is not gonna get better with age.”
he cites northam’s blackface scandal. “he’s a grownup. we’re dealing with little kids,” who need help making the right decisions.
he cites albemarle county school’s history of minstrel shows, as recently as the 1950s. and he says he’s worried about things like the picture here - this took place in a school about an hour from here.
“i’m worried,” he repeats, as he lists these symbols of hate.
“now i know better and i want to do better,” dr haas says. “it’s my responsibility” to provide a safe learning environment and to enforce the dress code as it exists.
the conversation about banning these symbols can continue, but this step can be taken now.
“we have no higher obligation” than to ensure that every student enters their schools to a safe and nurturing educational environment. he hit this point repeatedly throughout.
kate acuff asks how the policy will handle teachers, staff, & bus drivers. haas: “teachers, unlike students, do not have the same latitude.” “they need to be neutral politically.”
the district has moved in the past to restrict even the stickers teachers can have on their laptops.
buyaki is being a little combative. he’s accusing haas of violating the board’s policy. haas disagrees. the dress code as it currently exists allows him to do this.
“will we enumerate all the hateful and violent symbols that can be worn?” buyaki asks.
“that would not be possible,” haas says, but he’s outlining the ones he already knows are a problem - the ones we saw in the streets on august 12.
“we can tell students not to wear everything, so we shouldn’t specify anything,” is an argument he hears a lot... but the dress code already bans things (drug imagery, sexually explicit imagery, etc)
koleszar asks if haas is going to do this regardless of what the board says. it seems like the answer is yes.
“you’ve already given me the authority by hiring me.”
the board is very anxious about not being allowed to vote on this. “this is not a vote,” haas says, firmly.
katrina callsen says she applauds dr haas for taking needed action.
callsen: the VEA rep has told the board the confederate imagery is disruptive and teachers want it banned, the school health advisory board has said it’s harmful, students have weighed in in favor of a ban
“we dictate what is worn in all kinds of ways,” callsen says.
“i think it’s a dereliction of duty” to ignore the teachers, the students, the public, and the superintendent.
board chair graham paige also thanks dr haas for what he’s done. “i want that to be implemented and started as soon as possible.”
he wants to discuss still more about the dress code & enshrine these things specifically.
paige cites judge judy’s practice of shaking a piece of paper and insisting anything enforceable must be explicit in the contract
“i’m torn between what i think is the morally right thing,” which is being fair to students with “abhorrent” ideas, says koleszar. he disagrees with the tinker standard and is in favor of even more free speech.
“i think it’s philosophically wrong” to ban the confederate flag, koleszar says.
koleszar doesn’t think “devaluing” other people’s symbols just because we hate them is right. (does he realize those symbols devalue people’s lives?)
“i’m not particularly happy that matt [haas] has made this decision.” and thinks this creates potential legal liability.
we’re stuck on the idea of legal liability again. oberg isn’t here tonight, but he had some killer applause lines on the matter at the last meeting.

“we all know that racism affects student learning,” says koleszar, “but those effects are in our school system even if we don’t show the confederate flag.”
this won’t fix racism completely so let’s just not do anything at all! great point steve!
we’re missing oberg and alcaro tonight. kate acuff seems to want to defer further discussion until the entire board is present. she also wants to see how implementation of the new antiracism policy plays out.
board chair paige says they’ll vote at the next meeting on haas’s proposal... everyone erupts at once explaining that’s NOT the case.
“matt INFORMED us of his policy,” acuff says with some bitterness.
“school is compulsory,” callsen says. students don’t have the OPTION to not be in this environment. they are a captive audience for the racism they experience in the classroom.
STEVE STOP! this old white dude just said he has a dream that we can heal the race divide.
paige: you’re saying the people who are wearing those symbols trumps the people who have to look at them.
after a short recess, it’s time for public comment. this barrier between the audience and the dais is new...
first up is an associate professor of engineering at UVA. he says coming back to this area was meaningful for him because his family were slaves here. when they moved to the area, he enrolled his kids in the city because he heard there was intolerance in the county schools.
the speaker’s brother is a law professor. “federal courts have already upheld” the right of schools to ban this imagery “and he’s written books about this stuff.” “it’s done deal.”
he says seeing this type of imagery in his own school growing up really affected him.
(the crowd snapped gently for him as he finished. this isn’t allowed, but no one stopped us.)
the next speaker: “black children could not possibly feel as valued as white children” because we’re still arguing over whether or not to ban this imagery.
the board previously said this should be taken as a “learning experience.”
“black folks have been here for 400 years. we know how to deal with racist white people,” she says. “you need to ban it now.”
next up is one of the parent organizers with @hatefreeacps reading a message from another parent.
“it is dangerous to be a student of color in ACPS.” she’s talking about the incident that happened on MLK day.
“none of you have reached out to the student’s mother” to see how she and her son are doing after the incident & to see if they are satisfied with the result of the investigation.
she thanks the students who worked on the antiracism policy, but tells the board they haven’t gone far enough - the policy doesn’t do enough to meet the needs of indigenous or migrant students.
she reads a list of recent incidents of racial harassment that have happened to children she knows. it hurts to hear. these children are being harmed. “it’s dangerous to be a student of color at ACPS and you are a part of that terror.”
now another parent organizer with @hatefreeacps
she thanks dr haas his presentation but notes that everything he said tonight is the same as what they’ve been telling the board for a year.
“you can’t be ‘not racist.’ if you aren’t antiracist, you’re racist.”
parents are demanding an accountability structure.
“we demand you stop hiding being an antiracism policy”
“we want ACPS to be an antiracist institution.”
the next speaker also thanks haas for his presentation & says she has some concerns about things she’s heard at the past few meetings - “this action alone will not end systemic racism, so why bother?”
“no one action will end systemic racism” so we should take every action that gets us going in that direction “and it’s going to take a lot of them,” so we should get started!
the idea that these symbols in schools should be used to “have conversations” is ridiculous. these are symbols of genocide. that’s not a valuable starting point for a conversation.
next up is a community member who is now a social worker but has worked in law enforcement in the past. he has questions about the “gang symbols” already prohibited by the dress code. is that just people of color & their gangs? or is it white gangs too?
he says these white supremacist groups are gangs & they use these symbols the same way - they march under these flags while they commit acts of violence
the speaker used a number of profanities. these “free speech advocates” cut him off and asked him to stop using the bad words.
the next speaker says he wants to focus on the lack of respect that’s been shown to the community. he gestures to the full gallery — we’ve been showing up here for a year. “think about the number of hours” the community has put into getting the board to take one vote.
next speaker is frustrated by all the talk about whether it’s legal to ban these symbols or not.
“i challenge you to stick your neck out” and do what’s right for students.
to steve’s comment that this won’t end racism she says of course it won’t
“it will send a strong message to students of color” that their school cares about them and wants to keep them safe.
she says students aren’t allowed to wear shirts that say “fuck you.” of course this doesn’t make kids stop swearing.
last speaker is walt heinecke, a uva professor at the education school. “i have 22 years of studying educational policy,” including civic engagement and civic leadership.
of haas’s proposal tonight, “that’s what moral leadership looks like.”
he says the board still needs to make a POLICY.
dr haas is putting into place a regulation, but the policy the board makes “signals to employees what’s important and what’s not important”
the board is recapping what they heard during public comment. i like this new practice - it proves they at least heard us.
well, it proves katrina and graham were listening. acuff left and never came back. koleszar appears to be asleep.
well, meeting adjourned. it went pretty well, all things considered. acuff not being chair anymore makes a big difference. dr haas did the right thing tonight. we’re making progress. headed in the right direction.
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