The Lake Mills Board of Education voted Monday night to censure a board member for comments made on social media July 3 in a 4-1 vote with Davies voting against.
The comments made by Board Vice President Rachael Davies’ Facebook page, which became public, regarding an event at Commons Park and racism in Lake Mills, centered on her fears for her family.
A censure is the process by which the board can reprimand or condemn the actions of a member for any violation of law or policy or any other conduct committed by a board member which injures the good name of the school district or the effectiveness of the board. A censure is an expression of formal disapproval by the board.
The board vice president was asked to resign during the meeting by an emotional Dave Roedl, board clerk.
“I’m a private citizen. When a person is elected to the school board they do not cease to be a parent. They do not cease to be concerned for their child,” Davies said. “I’m allowed to express my concern for my children and it is a freedom called freedom of speech. Being a concerned mom is never wrong.”
She said she never called anyone out by name.
“I merely talked about my concern for my kids in this community. Calling out racism is never wrong.”
She said her comments were not racist.
“I would venture to guess racism is something that doesn’t really affect your lives and it isn’t something you think about very often,” she said.
Davies encouraged people to talk with people of color in the community.
“Please don’t pass judgement on a mom who had a moment and needed to say something about racism in our community.”
“I’m sorry if people were offended because they read into what I said, because they created a narrative, but it was not about anyone else. It was about my family and my concern for my family,” she said.
“Rachael I’ve known you for a very long time,” Roedl said. “I’ve defended you to people who disagree…I can’t walk in your shoes to understand what it’s like to be a parent of children of color or the spouse of someone of color. I can’t, and I wouldn’t pretend to know that.”
Roedl said he knows there is inequality in the community.
“I’m always striving to be better and I believe in the First Amendment,” he said. “As an elected official all of us are viewed through a different lens and we have to be vigilant to understand what we say doesn’t just reflect upon ourselves as an individual but reflects on a greater number of individuals.”
He said being a member of the Board of Education holds them to a higher standard. “What you said in the way you said it has been damaging and has been difficult for each one of us on this board,” he said. “Rachael, I ask you, so that we can move forward, to resign.”
Board President Robert Dimperio asked members of the audience to sit down in response to their cheering and clapping during the meeting.
Davies said people reached out to her and asked her not to resign.
“I know there is a loud minority that’s interested in going forward with that,” she said. “There are a lot of kids in the community who need someone to fight for them as well.”
Dawn Delaney, treasurer said she believed the tone of the post and the language were a sticking point for members of the community.
“I took that personally as a member of the community. It wasn’t your anti-racist stance or your passion, it was attacking members of the community.”
Dimperio said the decision to censure is not one of the First Amendment but of the board and its ability to move forward and work for the children of the community.
“It’s not about the why. There is nothing in this motion that talks about the why. This is not the place for a discussion on racism…We are talking about your conduct. As others have said this reflects on all of us.”
He said members of the board give up something to be on the board. He also mentioned a Facebook post Davies made about school reopening plans.
“The implication was a decision, was being made and I received many comments from the community showing concern that a board member had already made up their mind without anything being discussed. This is not just one item. This is more than one item.”
Amy Litscher, director, amended the motion to add some language regarding the post about school reopening, saying she had people contacting her about the post as well, confusing it with the board’s policy on the matter.
“In spite what may have been said, what was heard was much different,” Dimpero said.
Many community members attended the meeting but only one spoke on the issue saying there were many more who wanted to speak on the topic.