Posted on March 20, 2024

Fiery School Board Meeting Brings Out Black Panthers in Virginia

Brooke Leigh Howard, Daily Beast, March 19, 2024

Tension between a Virginia school board and members of the public was a match-stroke away from flames this week as parents lambasted the district administration for not doing enough to combat violent hate speech—which many considered to be an overt death threat.

Hundreds of people turned out for the heated three-hour meeting with the Powhatan County Public School Board, just outside of Richmond, on Monday. Roughly 50 people took to the dais to share their concerns about the inaction of district with regards to bullying, with the majority of the complaints focusing on blatant racism.

“Ever since I moved to Powhatan… I felt out of place because of the color of my skin. … Kids have said the N-word right to my face,” said Powhatan Middle School 8th grader Yasmine Smith, who is Black. “I feel as if I can’t report anything because y’all will keep it on the low, give it little investigation and consequences.”

Speakers who did not focus on racism within the district still addressed its pervasive bullying culture.

Richmond ABC affiliate WRIC reported that in February, a photo of a white student at Powhatan High School surfaced online. In the photo, “I KILL N—-R” is scribbled on the student’s arm. {snip}


Social media posts from members of the Powhatan community were livid that the white student in the photo allegedly only received three days’ suspension.


During Monday’s meeting, dozens of people addressed the incident and overall racist culture within the district.


But attendees didn’t just speak on the recent issue; they slammed the school board for ignoring other racist acts that have permeated the district.

Members of the public railed against the “all-white, cis-gendered, above 45 age-group” school board for its lack of diversity. Students who spoke shared their experiences seeing classmates wearing Confederate flag paraphernalia and bragging that they were members of the Ku Klux Klan. {snip}

“We’ve failed to acknowledge that our school system reflects our community. This is not just a school problem; this is a county problem. This is a society problem. This is a Virginia problem. This is a United States problem,” said Rick Cole, a former Powhatan School Board member who acknowledged his own racial biases.


Powhatan School Board Chair Dr. James Taylor also had two attendees escorted out by police after they repeatedly accused the board of maintaining white supremacy.


The Original Black Panther Party in Powhatan County also made an appearance and explained to the board how they considered the threat to be a form of terrorism.

“This threat was to kill,” said Mike Payne, the general of the Black Panther Party. “When will you realize you have a gigantic racial problem in your school and community? {snip}”