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Protesters oppose racial discrimination at Salt Lake City school board

By Alyssa Ferris |
November 24, 2015
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Salt Lake City, UT - More than two dozen protesters rallied outside the Salt Lake City school board meeting on Nov. 17, demanding an end to racist discrimination in employment. It comes in the guise of newly created and highly paid administrative positions all going to white candidates, while passing over highly qualified African Americans and other oppressed nationalities already employed by the school district.

Outside the building the crowd chanted, “From Mizzou to SLC, we want our schools racist free!” and “Racists resign! Racists resign!” Community organizers carried signs, “End racist education,” and “Get racism out of our schools.”

As the rally finished, the group entered the meeting where the school board members voted to approve the appointees in a vote split five for, and two opposed. School board President Heather Bennett defended the vote saying, “What I see when I see these people, are people with credentials. They may not have the lived experiences of a person of color, but they do have experience working in schools.”

School board member Michael Clara objected to the administrators. “It’s very demoralizing to our employees of color who have been here, are working here, and have even higher degrees than those who were appointed.”

Clara later addressed the superintendent “Why exclude people of color from these positions, is my question?”

President Bennett replied, “To say they were not selected is not the same as saying they were excluded.”

After the vote, community activists discussed plans to organize a call-in day to demand the resignation of the Superintendent McKell Withers. Protesters rallied and spoke at last month’s board meeting demanding an African American woman administrator not be demoted. Board member Clara convinced Superintendent Withers and the school board that Withers was not following proper procedures in that instance. The African American woman continues in her position, but the three new administration positions are seen as a way to get around the school district procedures and equal employment opportunities for district employees.

The groups organizing the school board rally include Racially Just Utah, Utah Against Police Brutality and the local AFT teachers union.