Franklin Special School District (FSSD) held a special meeting on September 10 via Zoom to discuss a controversial social media post made by the president of the FSSD school board Tim Stillings.
Last week, Stillings shared a red meme: “7 NFL players fathered 68 children with 52 different women. Maybe the knee isn’t the problem.
During the special FSSD meeting, Stillings issued 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 my emails as I flipped through my now-deleted personal social media page. I hastily read a particular post from someone I didn’t know – it was a public post – and without stopping to think, without thinking about what that post entailed or what it all meant. later reader could infer, 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 this. I immediately pulled over to the freeway and read the shared message very carefully. Frankly, I was heartbroken for saying so. I immediately deleted it. I posted an apology.
I am an individual who recognizes my mistakes and makes amends when necessary and I learn from those mistakes. In this apology, I invited anyone I have offended to connect with me for a more in-depth conversation that could help me be more sensitive and understanding. I wanted to hear their story. I am very grateful to the community members who contacted me in good faith and spoke with me. They shared their story of how this offensive meme spoke to them.
One of the most poignant stories was that of an FSSD family who adopted several biracial children and they felt this meme slandered 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 is why I serve the community as I do and apologize for sharing a meme that would send that kind of message that they heard from this.
Earlier this week, I reached out to civic and religious leaders in the African American community. I look forward to following the conversations tomorrow and moving forward.
I want to thank my friends, family, community leaders who contacted me last week to offer me encouragement and hope. You are the ones who know me and know that my careless re-sharing of this post does not reflect my true beliefs or values.
I have also received many private messages and emails stating that there is nothing wrong with sharing this meme and respectfully disagree. I am by no means a perfect person, but I recognize 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 everyone. It has been a very difficult learning experience for me and I hope to lead by example in the future by serving as an example of teaching. In my haste and recklessness, I re-shared a public post that was race-insensitive and for that I deeply apologize. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t see this at the start. I also know that no matter what words I use here to humbly apologize for what I have done, there will be, for some people, those words will never be enough. For us to come together and approach issues like this constructively, to work in harmony towards improvement, it takes all of us.
I have enjoyed serving the families of the FSSD for 23 years. This neighborhood is truly, truly exemplary and I look forward to serving in the future. Every September the state of Tennessee requires each local school board to elect new officers and after being president for 6 years and especially in light of this incident I think it’s time for someone to another assumes the presidency. The board member development initiatives have produced five other board members who are qualified and able to serve as chairman 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 issued the following statement:
Franklin Special School District community members:
We, the members of the Franklin Special School District Education Council, are aware of a controversial social media post by Tim Stillings, who is an elected and general member of the Education Council. The now deleted post does not carry any endorsement by the Board of Trustees and does not represent or reflect the values and beliefs of the Franklin Special School District. The members of the board, the principal and Mr. Stillings appreciate the many phone calls, personal remarks and emails we have received over the past two days regarding this announcement. We agree with many others who found the post inappropriate and offensive and we have all conveyed these sentiments to Mr. Stillings and the Director of Schools. Although it was posted on his personal account, there is nowhere in our company where comments like the ones he posted, even jokingly, are acceptable. As an elected official and chair of our school board, we hold Mr. Stillings – as well as ourselves – to a greater degree of accountability. Going forward, the Council encourages Mr. Stillings to listen, learn and better understand how such micro-attacks can damage public confidence and create divisions. Mr Stillings deleted 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 Education Council has diverse members from different backgrounds. Our range of voices and perspectives allows us to have meaningful conversations on difficult topics. We are also proud of the extraordinary effort it takes to be a lasting Distinguishing Board of the Tennessee School Boards Association. Much of this honor stems from the many hours of professional learning we all participate in to become better public servants. This event, while unfortunate, highlights 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 and emotional influences we can bring to all members of the Franklin Special School District family.
About Tim Stillings
From the FSSD website:
First elected in 1998, Tim Stillings is serving his fifth four-year term on the Board of Directors. He is the chairman of the school board, with previous service including formal appointments as board treasurer, secretary and vice-chairman. For several years, Mr. Stillings was the delegate appointed by the board of directors of the Tennessee Legislative Network, overseeing pending education-related legislation in the state legislature and advocating with the legislative delegation that represents the families served by the FSSD. Click here to find out more.
The Franklin Special School District serves 3,700 K-8 students in eight schools. Its boundaries encompass the greater Franklin area.