The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 board member rant draws meeting reaction
By Seth Hancock
A social media controversy hit the Board of Education in School District U-46 leading to several public comments at a board meeting on Monday, Oct. 2.
Board member Traci Ellis made a social media post stating the American flag “means nothing more than toilet paper to me” and she would “#TakeAKnee at school board meetings if my doing so would not be disruptive” referring to supporting recent protests by NFL players.
Ellis’ post elicited some backlash on social media, but at the board meeting the majority of 15 public speakers were in support of Ellis.
Board member Jeanette Ward posted a screenshot to social media of Ellis’ original post and called the description of the flag “despicable and disgusting.” Ward said the post was sent to her by “a very concerned constituent.”
Some have called for Ellis to resign over the comment, but Ward said she didn’t support “forcing Ms. Ellis to resign.”
“The remedy for those who disagree with her is elections,” Ward said at the meeting. “Elections have consequences, and free people must take the responsibility to engage in the hard work of civic involvement, and not just when something outrageous is said. I hope those who live in U-46 will remember that when the next school board elections are held in 2019.”
Some supporters of Ellis at the meeting called her actions “patriotic” and claimed a need for a conversation.
Ellis opened her remarks by listing all board members except one, Ward, as well as a list of administrators that “I deeply apologize to you” for the “distraction, but “I make no apologies for my comment about the flag.”
During her comments Ellis called those who disagreed with her “racist” and claimed she received messages calling her “a f$$$ing nigger bitch” and “a c$$t,” and she has claimed to receive death threats. The Examiner asked Ellis if she could provide evidence of such claims, but she did not respond.
Ward had made a social media post telling her supporters to not use disparaging comments against Ellis after Ellis’ claims started, and at the meeting Ward condemned such comments saying: “That’s disrespectful, appalling, disgraceful. I would never support talking to a human being or anyone like that. That’s despicable.”
The reason for equating the flag to “toilet paper” Ellis said in another social media post was because the ideas of “freedom and ‘justice and liberty’ for all… is a blatant lie for black folks.”
Ellis claimed her “experience in America” is that of a victim. The flag issue elicited emotional responses from some board members including Ward who said she was proud of both of her grandfathers who served in World War II and her father who served in the Vietnam War.
“I remember attending my grandfather’s funeral when my grandmother was handed a folded flag while being told ‘a grateful nation remembers,’” Ward said.
Ward added: “The American flag is not a white nationalist symbol nor a ‘false symbol of hope.’ It is the symbol of the greatest country on earth. You cannot ‘love and respect the flag’ while at the same time saying it ‘means nothing more than toilet paper.’ American freedoms extend to all Americans of all colors, including Ms. Ellis. No one has tried to remove Ms. Ellis’ right to speak. But free speech allows those who disagree to also express their opinions. And it is not racist to do so.”
Board member Melissa Owens, who is white, claimed to be the victim of racial injustice saying “I was dealing with some very hard racial issues in our family” and concluded by hugging Ellis. She has an adopted Asian child.
Board member Veronica Noland said of Ellis “you speak your truth…. She walks her talk.” She added that she “appreciated Ward’s comment that “we don’t ask board members to resign.”
Ellis’ supporters interrupted Ward at one point with laughter as she listed some black Americans “who are proud of America and her symbols” such as Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell. One comment from the audience was “all Republicans” following the lead of Ellis who also previously commented that the Republican National Convention was a “Klanvention.”
Donna Smith, the board’s president, told the audience to be respectful.
“We all sat here very quietly and respectfully through your comments,” Smith said. “I ask that you do the same.”
During public comments, Megan Larson supported Ellis and implied Ward was the one who “should be reprimanded” saying she was “unfit to represent the students and families in U-46.” She was upset that Ellis’ original post was on a private, not public, page.
However, Ellis used a private post to personally malign a former board member and she has previously asked her supporters to come to board meeting to personally attack Ward for simply expressing an opposing point of view.
Prezel Hardy, who said he was a 10-year veteran, said he was a friend of Ellis. He said he was not offended by her comments but it was “a little inflammatory.”
Hardy said of racial tensions, it mostly comes from perceptions. Of police targeting minorities “the perception needs to change, just like the perception that all blacks and Hispanics are thugs and looters and all of that.”
Linda Rusenovich said Ellis’ comments are “an insult to all of us who respect the flag as a symbol of our country. You’ve since been quoted saying you do respect the ideals of our country but don’t idolize the flag. However, that doesn’t excuse your ill thought out words.”
Rusenovich added: “Your disrespectful words only alienate your potential allies. Your attitude says that you don’t care about our values.”
Laura Prowicz said Ellis is the one “causing division among us all” and asked: “How are the children going to grow up respecting each other and respecting America?”
Ellis’ supporters also interrupted Prowicz requiring Smith to step in to ask for respect to be shown.