School Board member Rachel Bynum and Chairman Wes Mills at the RCSB July, 14 regular monthly meeting.

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Thank you to the many caring people who have reached out publicly and privately in support of me and my statement at the July 14 School Board meeting. The kindness and connection in this community is only growing and I’m so glad I get to be a part of it. It was an honor to be able to use a few moments of public time to put these self-reflective and, I think, constructive remarks from our community’s Peace and Justice Gathering on the public record. 

[School Board Chair] Mr. Mills knew that I wanted to bring up the event and its purpose and relevant points well ahead of the meeting. Over 10 days ahead of the meeting, I sent him my reasons for wanting to speak and the speech itself. Before reading my speech at the meeting, I stated that the event had been organized and attended by many in our RCPS family, and a key speaker was president of the student body when I was sworn in as a School Board member. 

I also felt that it was relevant because of the superintendent’s announcement of the formation of an Equity Committee earlier in the meeting. Mr. Mills could have read my speech about racial history, steps that we as a school are taking to do better, and goals of a strengthened and more diverse community, but he clearly did not. Mr. Mills stopped at the “Black lives matter” sentence he claims to have no problem with and proceeded to enumerate ugly talking points familiar on Email Rappnet but utterly unrelated to the words I said. Again, with the opportunity to listen in real time at the meeting, Mr. Mills busily worked on jotting down the same points instead of listening to what I had to say. I assure you that I heard every word of his chilling rebuttal.

The link from the past to the present I touched on in my remarks was bullying. I experienced a commonly-used form of bullying, private intimidation — a threat of retaliation for being yourself — in the email exchange. The goal of this threat was to silence me. Mr. Mills has served on the School Board long enough to know that each member is entitled to an equal voice and vote on the Board. As Chair, he has done a good job of running our meetings, but he is not my boss or the boss of anyone on the Board.

We serve the public as equals, despite the fact that I am newer to the Board than he, am a woman, am a few years younger, and have dirt under my fingernails. Each of us are bound to represent our constituents. As the Piedmont representative, I think it is right to speak for those who are not always listened to, to be curious about the daily experience at school, and to try to improve it for everyone. I also choose to stand with the 500-plus county residents who peacefully gathered against racism, for peace and justice, as my right. 

Here is one more try at having myself heard by my colleague, and anyone else who might not have heard. This is the closing paragraph of my remarks:

“As schools, and as a community, we need to prepare our kids to be able to participate fully in the big, diverse, always changing world we are a part of. We want them to become life-long learners who will be good citizens. As adults, we can all model learning and growing with the times. A part of good citizenship needs to include simply being able to empathize with a segment of our community that is currently in need of our support. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by saying, clearly, unequivocally, that Black lives matter.” 

Mr. Mills heard that, and then proceeded to dress me down. I was speechless. 

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