‘I pray we come together as a country for the sake of the next generation, and take great care in what we say,’ she said.
School Board member Colleen Conklin read a statement Nov. 22 denouncing president-elect Donald Trump’s “vile comments” and linking them to a Nov. 17 incident in which a student at Imagine School at Town Center drew swastikas on the hands of two younger children of mixed race.
Conklin’s statement, written as a letter to the editor for FlaglerLive.com (view it in full at flaglerlive.com/102097/conklin-trump/), was her last speech as the board’s chairman before she passed the gavel to new chairman Trevor Tucker.
“Words matter,” Conklin said, and the country should expect more from the man who will be its president.
“Political leaders, both locally and nationally, must own what has been said and be bold enough to not accept it, denounce it and expect more from the person who will hold the highest office in the land,” she said, reading the statement.
“For the good of our nation, we collectively should be rooting for the president-elect to succeed,” she said. “His failure is truly our failure. However, this doesn’t mean an automatic pass on the vile comments that have been spewed over the last several months. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s about civility and integrity of the highest office in our country.”
Fear-mongering and protests aren’t helping, she said, but neither is ignoring the president-elect’s statements, “which have outraged individuals on both sides of the aisle.”
Conklin said that as an educator and a member of the School Board, she often tries to think about things from a child’s perspective. Children have been listening to Trump on TV, she said, and, “It’s heartbreaking to personally hear children express fear about the man who is going to be our president of our country, all because of the color possibly of their skin, and worried that their family may be deported.” Also wrong, she said, is an environment in which parents tell their sons not to wear “Make America Great Again” caps for fear their sons may be harmed. Wrong too, she said, is accepting “that a middle school child attending Imagine School was simply drawing or playing when they placed a swastika on the arms or hands of another child.”
Denying that incident’s connection to the election, she said, “is irresponsible.”
Conklin said she was “searching for common ground that we can all agree upon.”
“I pray we come together as a country for the sake of the next generation, and take great care in what we say and do,” she said.
School Board members Trevor Tucker, Andy Dance and Maria Barbosa, who was sitting on the board for the first time since her swearing in as a new board member that morning, did not address Conklin’s comments at the meeting.
School Board member Janet McDonald, speaking after Conklin, said she hoped Flagler County children are learning in their civics classes the meaning of the Constitution and the rights and responsibilities associated with citizenship.
“I hope that with what’s going on in the country — to echo your thoughts, Mrs. Conklin — I hope that we spend time in our civics class at the upper elementary even the lower elementary, the middle and the high schools to really know what the Constitution means,” McDonald said. “This is an American issue. It’s not a divisive issue; it’s not a partisan issue. We all need to know what it means to be a citizen. I was really looking forward to talking about citizenship, to piggy-back on what you said, and I think the more we can arm our kids with what it really takes to be a citizen of this country, what our rights and responsibilities are — not just our rights, but our responsibilities to collaborate and contribute — I think we will arm them well, to go into the greater beyond.”