Franklin Special School District (FSSD) held a special called meeting on Sept 10 via Zoom to discuss a controversial social media post made by FSSD School Board Chairman Tim Stillings.
Last week, Stillings shared a meme that red, “7 NFL players fathered 68 kids with 52 different women. Maybe the knee isn’t the problem.”
During FSSD’s special called meeting, Stillings offered a formal apology:
I humbly apologize for creating this controversy, this discussion, this unnecessary distraction from the good work that we do.
Last Thursday, I was sitting in a waiting room checking email thumbing through my now deleted personal social media page. I very hastily read one particular posting by someone I did not know – it was a public posting – and without pausing to consider, without thinking through what that posting was implying or any meaning that any subsequent reader might infer from it, I hit the share button. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the central office on my cell phone telling me that someone had contacted the central office about it. I immediately pulled over off the highway and I very carefully read the shared post. Frankly, I was heart broken that I had said it. I immediately deleted it. I posted an apology.
I’m an individual who owns his mistakes and makes amends where needed and I learn from those mistakes. In that apology I invited anyone that I offended to connect with me for more deeper conversation that might help me be more sensitive and more understanding. I wanted to hear their story. I’m very appreciative of the members of the community who reached out to me in good faith and talked with me. They shared their story of how that offensive meme spoke to them.
One of the more poignant stories was from an FSSD family who adopted several biracial children and they felt that that meme was maligning them and their families. I assured them that it is my belief that all children are precious, all children are a gift from God and that’s why I serve the community the way I do and I apologized for sharing a meme that would send that sort of message that they heard from that.
Earlier this week, I contacted civic and religious leaders in the African American community. I look forward to follow up conversations tomorrow and going forward.
I want to thank my friends, family, community leaders who reached out to me this past week offering encouragement and hope. You are the ones who know me and know that my careless re- sharing this post does not reflect my true beliefs or my values.
I also received many private messages and emails stating there was nothing wrong with sharing that meme and, respectfully, I disagree. By no means am I a perfect person but I own my shortcomings, I learn and do better and I try not to repeat a mistake.
The vision of the FSSD is excellence in teaching and learning for all, not just students, not just teachers, administration, but all. This has been a very difficult learning experience for me and I hope I set the example going forward by serving as a teaching example. In my rush and carelessness, I re-shared a public posting that was racially insensitive and for that I deeply apologize. I’m embarrassed I did not initially see that. I also know that no matter what words I use here to humbly apologize for what I’ve done, there will be, for some people, those words will never be enough. In order for us to come together and to address issues like this in a constructive way, to work in harmony towards improvement, it takes all of us.
I’ve enjoyed serving the families of the FSSD for the last 23 years. This district is truly, truly exemplary and I look forward to serving going forward. Each September, the state of Tennessee requires each local board of education to elect new officers and after serving as Chairman for 6 years and, especially in light of this incident, I believe its time for someone else to serve as Chair. Board member development initiatives have produced five other board members who are qualified and capable to serve as Chair of this distinguished Board.
The Board accepted Stillings apology and discussed how to move forward with additional professional development training.
Franklin Special School District also has issued the following statement:
Members of the Franklin Special School District Community:
We, the members of the Board of Education of the Franklin Special School District, are aware of a controversial posting on social media by Tim Stillings, who serves as an elected, at-large member of the Board of Education. The now-deleted posting does not bear any endorsement from the Board and does not represent or reflect the values and beliefs of the Franklin Special School District. The members of the Board, the Director of Schools and Mr. Stillings appreciate the many phone calls, personal remarks and emails we have received over the past two days about this posting. We agree with many others who found the posting inappropriate and offensive and we have all expressed these sentiments to Mr. Stillings and to the Director of Schools. While it was posted on his personal account, there is no place in our society where comments such as those he posted, even in jest, are acceptable. As an elected public official and chairman of our school board, we hold Mr. Stillings – as well as ourselves – to a higher degree of accountability. Moving forward, the Board encourages Mr. Stillings to listen, learn and understand more about how such microaggressions can harm public trust and create divisiveness. Mr. Stillings has removed the offensive post and replaced it with an apology and a promise to speak directly to those who would like to share their thoughts with him.
The FSSD Board of Education has a diverse membership from many different walks of life. Our range of voices and perspectives enable us to have meaningful conversations around difficult topics. We are also proud of the extraordinary effort it takes to be a perennial Tennessee School Boards Association Board of Distinction. A large part of that honor is derived from the many hours of professional learning in which we all participate to become better public servants. This event, while unfortunate, shines a light on the need for more conversation and growth in the areas of racial sensitivity and awareness. The Board will continue to work together, alongside members of our community, district staff, and students, to strengthen the social emotional influences that we can provide to of all members of the Franklin Special School District family.
About Tim Stillings
From the FSSD site:
First elected in 1998, Tim Stillings is serving his fifth four-year term on the board. He is the School Board Chairman, with previous service including official appointments as Board Treasurer, Secretary, and Vice Chairman. For several years, Mr. Stillings was the Board-appointed delegate on the Tennessee Legislative Network, monitoring education-related pending legislation in the State Legislature, and advocating with the Legislative delegation that represents families served by the FSSD. Click here for more.
The Franklin Special School District serves 3,700 PreK – 8th grade students in eight schools. Its boundaries encompass the greater Franklin area.