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‘What Has It Really Done?’: Newly Conservative School Board in Missouri to Roll Back Anti-Racism Resolution Put in Place After George Floyd’s Death as DEI Policies, Instruction on Race Dwindle Across Nation

After voting to rescind an anti-racism declaration that was instituted during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, a school board in Missouri is now reworking the resolution following a surge of backlash from the community.

That board, which provides educational oversight for the Francis Howell School District in O’Fallon, was once occupied by individuals with varying political alliances. Now, it’s overwhelmingly conservative, according to The Associated Press.

Community members attended the Francis Howell School board meeting where board members voted to repeal an anti-racism resolution that was adopted in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. (Photo: YouTube screenshot/KMOV St. Louis)

Nearly three years ago, in August 2020, just three months after George Floyd’s death and a series of global demonstrations, board members passed a resolution pledging to “speak firmly against any racism, discrimination, and senseless violence against people regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability.”

That resolution was displayed in the district’s school buildings, calling racism “a crisis that negatively impacts our students, our families, our community, and our staff.”

“We will promote racial healing, especially for our Black and brown students and families,” the resolution states. “We will no longer be silent.”

The district itself, which contains 17,000 students is majority white with 87 percent of white students making up the bulk of the student population. Less than 7 percent of students in the district are Black. It’s one of the largest districts in Missouri.

After community members decried the initial decision to rescind the resolution, Board President Adam Bertrand wrote in a message on Facebook this week that he alongside board member Ponder “believe, based on the dialogue at the last board meeting, support for this resolution as presented is unlikely but feel there may be support of a rewrite or modification.”

Kimberly Thompson was a student at Francis Howell schools in the 1970s and 1980s. Her two children graduated from the district. She and her family, who are Black, have encountered several instances of racism. Now, she hopes that the board continues to uphold its commitment.

“This resolution means hope to me, hope of a better Francis Howell School District,” Thompson said. “It means setting expectations for behavior for students and staff regardless of their personal opinions.”

Randy Cook, the board’s vice president, said certain phrases, like “systemic racism,” need to be reworked since it means different things to different people. Another board member, Jane Puszkar, said the resolution served no purpose at all.

“What has it really done,” Puszkar asked. “How effective has it really been?”

This recision is just one instance in a series of reversals and overhauls that state education officials and school districts across the nation are carrying out to reshape educational standards and curricula about race and discrimination for K-12 students.

Last year, the Forest Hills School Board, also in Ohio, passed a resolution banning critical race theory and anti-racism curriculum from student instruction, staff training, and hiring practices. That district, located in a Cincinnati suburb, is also 87 percent white, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

On top of that, Ohio’s State Board of Education repealed an anti-racism and equity resolution they adopted in 2021 after Floyd was killed the year prior and replaced it with a statement promoting academic excellence without respect to “race, ethnicity or creed.”

Florida is most infamous for these modifications as Ron DeSantis continues his crusade to alter lesson plans entirely. After the state rejected a high school critical race theory AP class on African-American Studies because it apparently violated state law, the state board of education passed new standards that, in part, teach that slavery was beneficial to enslaved people.

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