After a lengthy discussion on Thursday, the Cobb Board of Education agreed to delay consideration of a proposed anti-racism resolution to work out a compromise.
During a work session, board members Randy Scamihorn and Jaha Howard jostled over their differing versions of the resolution (see previous ECN story here).
Ultimately, the board agreed the two of them should sit down and develop a measure ideally to garner a unanimous 7-0 vote.
“I’m excited about what the two of you are going to craft,” said board member David Morgan of South Cobb, who repeatedly pushed for a resolution that he said would get the Cobb County School District “to a greater good.”
He’s one of three black Democrats on a Cobb school board that has split along partisan lines on a number of matters in recent months, including racial diversity and equity issues.
The two other black Democrats, Howard and Charisse Davis of the Walton and Wheeler clusters, were most resistant during the board’s discussion Thursday to support Scamihorn’s resolution.
They were upset they weren’t asked for their input in the drafting of the resolution, and said the language Scamihorn proposed didn’t go far enough to acknowledge, much less to address, what they said was “systemic racism” in Cobb schools.
Scamihorn touted Cobb schools as a “fantastic school system” that has made substantial racial progress over the decades. “We’re doing something right.”
When Howard pressed him about whether Cobb’s had a history of systemic racism in its school system, Scamihorn, one of four white male Republicans on the board, said “I see no evidence of that.”
Howard’s alternate resolution also named black citizens, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, who’ve died recently at the hands of police, as well as Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. Three white males have been indicted for shooting him to death while jogging in February.
Scamihorn didn’t name anybody by name, but led his resolution by saying that all associated with the Cobb school district “are saddened by the tragic events that have recently occurred across the country.”
Davis said that language was too vague. She also cited figures showing higher rates of serious levels of discipline for black students as evidence of lingering racial disparities in the Cobb school district, which has nearly 115,00 students, 30 percent of them white and 22 percent black.
“When you say there’s no evidence, you’re ignoring the evidence,” Davis told Scamihorn. “I can’t support a resolution that just checks a box but that doesn’t direct us how we can do better.”
She accused him of “making stuff up” about the level of communication between board members on such matters, and Scamihorn snapped that he didn’t appreciate being “called a liar. It’s outrageous and unprofessional.”
Scamihorn said his resolution was meant as a starting point for the board and district.
“We need a common spot to build from,” said board chairman Brad Wheeler, another Republican. The other Republicans on the board, David Chastain and David Banks of East Cobb, didn’t offer their thoughts during the work session.
During an earlier sequence in the work session, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale addressed the resolution and related issues, saying “we have to come together. We have to stop the hate.
When Howard asked him if he thinks black lives matter, Ragsdale reiterated a previous mention of The Golden Rule.
“When I say to treat people right, that’s how I try to live my life,” he said.
Davis said she’s heard from many parents and students who say the district hasn’t properly handled their concerns about racial mistreatment or inequities.
“We’re not going to golden rule our way out of this,” she said.
Ragsdale responded that when such issues “are brought to us, we’re going to address those situations as we have always addressed them.”
He said every issue is addressed in the same manner, following formal rules of procedure.
“We have a culture problem,” Davis said, “that are not just one-off issues” and said the current approach “doesn’t address what so many of us are feeling.”
The board agreed to table the resolution until its next meeting on July 16.
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