A member of the Stow-Munroe Falls school board was sanctioned and admonished by other board members Thursday night in a special session of the body.
Lisa Johnson-Bowers, who had been criticized for laughing during a recent virtual school board meeting about racism, was cited for violating the board’s code of conduct and ethics.
President Jason Whitacre read the resolution aloud as about 20 members of two local groups calling for Johnson-Bowers’ resignation looked on in the board’s Allen Road chambers.
The resolution was approved after the board met behind closed doors for two hours in executive session.
Before the session opened, about 20 protesters lofted signs calling for Johnson-Bowers to resign for laughing while emotionally charged accounts of racism in Stow and Stow schools were read at a board meeting earlier this week.
After the rally outside the school board building, the protesters moved inside as the start of Thursday’s meeting approached.
Johnson-Bowers made a statement to the crowd, apologizing for her actions on the Zoom video. It was her birthday, she said, and she was distracted by her child and dog.
"At just the wrong moment," she said, "my son walked into the room."
Johnson-Bowers said she "fully supports" Black Lives Matter.
"I promise to do better moving forward," she said.
Following her statement, the board went into executive session.
Before the meeting, Antoinette East-Jenkins, a member of Progressives United of Stow, said an earlier apology from Johnson-Bowers did not appear sincere.
Her group was calling for Johnson-Bowers to resign and another apology wouldn’t suffice, East-Jenkins said.
"I think she missed that mark," East-Jenkins said.
She said she’s aware of a student in the system who has experienced verbal abuse because of his race.
"He has been called the N-word there and there are no consequences when this happens," she said.
At another time, the student was confronted by a school resource officer for unruly behavior, but other students weren’t.
"Hopefully after today, the school board members will realize we’re serious," she said.
Rachel Jamison, who attended elementary school in the district, said Johnson-Bowers should resign.
Jamison’s brother, Miguel Carvallo, who graduated from Stow Munroe-Falls High School, said he was aware of bullying and mistreatment due to race while he attended the school and after he graduated.
Carvallo said one of his friends died by suicide after such incidents. A letter about his friend was being read while Johnson-Bowers laughed.
Carvallo said there has long been inequities in the school district.
"It was never a place that made me feel all the way welcome," he said.
Carvallo said he wants to help provoke change in the district with mandatory anti-racism training. He also is calling for large Black Lives Matter banners to be displayed at all district schools.
The Hudson school system, Carvallo said, has a diversity coordinator and he would like to see the Stow Munroe-Falls district create a similar position.
East-Jenkins, who is on two committees established by the superintendent to combat racism, said Johnson-Bowers’ actions run counter to the committee’s goals.
She said she needs to know that school officials are committed to change.
"I don’t want to be on a committee that isn’t serious," she said. "... I could have accepted a mistake, but is seems like she’s being dishonest."
Whitacre cited the resolution as the board’s response to Johnson-Bowers’ actions.
"I think we spoke through our resolution," he said. "I hope people can start focusing on the message."
Jamison said the resolution was inadequate and said calls for Johnson-Bowers to resign would continue.
Alan Ashworth can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.