CALL TO ACTION: Speak OUT Against ACPS’ Culture of Racism and White Fragility

Join Hate-Free Schools Coalition of Albemarle County at the August 30th School Board meeting!

PHOTO: Outside in daylight. A gathering of dozens of people of various ages, genders, and races on a sidewalk. In the background are large, green trees. Toward the left, a white woman in a shin-length red, sleeveless dress and red shoes is holding a microphone. To the far right is a news camera on a tall tripod pointed toward that woman. Some people are sitting on two white benches, but most of the people are standing. There are metal lamposts and large, square, concrete planters with various flowering plants on the sidewalk. A brick building with white windows can be seen in the background.
Community members convene a people’s assembly outside of the Albemarle County building after shutting down the county school board meeting on August 23rd, 2018.

At last week’s Albemarle County School Board meeting, Hate-Free Schools Coalition (HFSC) of Albemarle County demanded again that Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) be held accountable for traumatizing students through its culture of racism that the School Board (SB) continues to ignore. Instead of listening to parents, students, teachers, and community members, a 10-minute recess was called after the first speaker shared her public comment to which attendees snapped their fingers and made verbal shows of agreement. Chairwoman, Kate Acuff, threatening parents, students, and community members with police action stated that, “we will not permit vocalizations, clapping, including whatever. We have law enforcement here and we will escort you out of the room with another incident.”

After the 10-minute recess, the meeting reconvened for less than 5 minutes and was re-opened by SB member, Stephen Kolezar, with the following double-speak, “One of the basic things we are taught in School Board 101 is that School Board meetings are meetings held in public, they are NOT public meetings.” SB member, Jason Buyaki, who was sporting a necktie with legacy confederate flag imagery, then read the “rules” and dismissed the needs of attendees who are unable to stand and those unable to participate in the meeting due to lack of available seats. Less than 2 minutes later, when community members rightfully challenged Buyaki’s ableist statements, Chairwoman, Acuff, slammed the gavel and declared, “THIS IS A PUBLIC MEETING!” in direct conflict to Kolezar’s statement moments earlier. When the attendees reacted to this blatant hypocrisy, the SB members adjourned their meeting and would not allow us to stay in the space to share our public comments with one another. HFSC moved the meeting outside in front of the County Office Building and more than 65 parents, students, and community members stayed to listen to the public comments of several speakers in support of a ban on confederate and white supremacist imagery.

Following last week’s meeting, Acuff, Matt Haas (superintendent), and Bernard Hairston (office of community engagement) have all been featured on radio shows telling blatant lies and misrepresenting HFSC as an organization who “bussed in outside agitators”. No, ACPS. This is a lie. HFSC consists of parents, students (current and alum), teachers, and community members are the voices of whom the SB is obligated to listen. The only outside individuals present were the 7 people from Orange County, NC who fought this same battle last year for 9 months and attended the meeting to share their experience. Their SB was also not interested in a ban on confederate imagery, but when A11/A12 happened here in Charlottesville, the Orange County SB immediately voted unanimously to ban the confederate imagery in their dress code on August 13, 2017.

The SB has called a Special Session for this Thursday, August 30 at 6:30pm to complete the agenda from last week. HFSC is asking everyone to attend and amplify this call to action. There is no business as usual while the SB continues to deny a ban on confederate and white supremacist imagery within their dress code.

ACTION DETAILS:

ASK:  Join us at 6:15pm-8:30pm in solidarity at the ACPS School Board meeting on August 30th, County Office Building. You can speak during Public Comment or hold space with us in visible solidarity as we stand in support of speakers from our coalition during public comment. This is a family-friendly event and students of all ages are invited. Signs are encouraged (“Ban it Now”) and all other creative ideas are welcomed.

KEY MESSAGE – We are asking the ACPS School Board to:

  • LISTEN:  Students and parents are experiencing racism (individual acts and systemic structures) within ACPS and the SB’s position is to ignore the trauma they are inflicting on our students by not protecting them with an explicit ban. Please bring your experiences and examples to share during public comment. The SB should tolerate cultural differences in shows of solidarity, such as snapping to show support.  
  • ACKNOWLEDGE:  Confederate imagery is racist. It causes trauma to students and is destructive and harmful to the learning environment. Jason Buyaki’s show of support for racist ideology through his wearing of confederate imagery last week makes him unfit for office and we demand his resignation immediately.  
  • STOP UPHOLDING WHITE SUPREMACY: READ Heyward v Hardwick and the Carroll County, MD Legal Opinion from our 4th Circuit Court legal precedence specifically supporting a ban of Confederate imagery in the dress code. Ban it now! Also ALLOW minor vocalization and “noisemaking” that is natural human behavior and support human dignity for all.

Interested in supporting this work? Here’s what to do:

  • Like our FB Community Page (public):  https://www.facebook.com/Hate-Free-Schools-Coalition-of-Albemarle-County-491986071217483/
  • RSVP to the Aug 30th event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2098710453713446/ for more information on logistics and public comment guidelines
  • If you want to share your story, but would like it to be read by someone else for anonymity OR if you want more information on our work, email:  HateFreeACPS@gmail.com