By DONNA HARRIS
A Bartow County school board member and teacher are under fire after posting comments on social media that angry community members are calling “unprofessional” and “insensitive.”
Several parents, students and clergy members who were part of the overflow crowd attending the Bartow County School Board meeting Monday night called for action to be taken against District 2 board member Terry Lee Eggert and an elementary school teacher for posts they made on social media regarding protesters.
Dexter Benning, second vice president of the Bartow County NAACP, told board members he was speaking to “bring to light an insensitive remark of one of your own.”
He read Eggert’s post about how police officers should deal with protesters: “Rubber bullets do nothing. Time for real ammo. Then and only then will this nonsense of looting, attacks on citizens and destruction of property stop. Stupid games win stupid prizes.”
“As an African-American, I find it deeply troubling and disturbing that a sitting board member would engage in such behavior that could be perceived as racist or biased in any way,” he said. “These types of comments are unprofessional, inappropriate and could incite social unrest.”
Benning said such remarks also show “this person does not need to be making decisions for our children.”
“Therefore, we are calling for the immediate resignation of board member Mr. Terry Lee Eggert,” he said.
In the other post, a teacher labeled protesters as “thugs.”
Cass High student Brigid Njoroge said students are calling the teacher’s post “very unprofessional.”
“For 15-year-olds to find that unprofessional, I think it’s something,” she said. “As a 15-year-old, all the way to 18-year-olds, we find that unprofessional and rude. This could change how we see teachers.”
Her sister, Grace, 21, said kids are told their whole lives to think about what they say and post before they do it, and that principle also should apply to teachers.
“Why is it OK for her to post something so offensive to a majority of people and her still have a right to teach children?” she said. “I have a little brother … and if she’s my brother’s next teacher, I will not be happy. I would not want her teaching my brother anything.”
The Rev. Isaiah Robertson of Cartersville told board members he expects his young daughter to not call people names and to show empathy and good judgment “so if I have these expectations for my daughter, who will be in first grade, how much more should I have these expectations of her educators?”
“When her educators violate these values that I want them to reinforce, then these educators are no longer fit to serve my daughter in that capacity,” he said.
The Rev. John Lampley, pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Cartersville, addressed the damage caused by cyberbullying, particularly when done by an educator.
“Insensitive, prejudice comments on social media are as equally damaging as any physical abuse that one would endure,” he said. “… This behavior is not tolerated from our children, and teachers have the same responsibility to refrain from this type of behavior.”
Lampley said the community didn’t receive an apology from the school board for the comments; instead, a board member “became even more inflammatory” in his post.
“We seek that this board member step down or be removed immediately,” he said.
One speaker, Charles Lowry, who had just heard about the post earlier in the day, came to Eggert’s defense.
“I’ve known him for over 20 years,” he said. “He is a devout Christian, and he doesn’t have a racial bone in his body that I know of, having known him that long.”
As is the school board’s policy, none of the members responded publicly to the speakers’ comments, but the speakers who requested a response will receive a letter.
After the meeting, Eggert said he had no comment on what was said about him, noting school board attorney Shep Helton had advised him not to say anything.
School officials are investigating both situations.
The issue of removing Eggert from his position due to an ethics violation would be a matter for his fellow school board members to decide, according to the BCBOE code of ethics policy.
Regarding the teacher, because it “relates to personnel, it would be a matter for executive session,” Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page said Tuesday.
“However, the results of those meetings are confidential due to federal privacy laws that protect the rights of our employees,” he said.
Board Chairman Fred Kittle said Tuesday he also couldn’t comment on either matter.
“Unfortunately, current policy prohibits the dissemination of information or items discussed in executive session, which includes personnel, attorney-client and property matters,” he said.