It was standing room only at the Lake Mills Area School District Board of Education meeting Monday as community members called for the resignation of a board member after a contentious social media post.
The post was made July 3 by Rachael Davies, board vice president, following inaccurate reports on social media over a car accident at the 50 Miles More march that stopped in Lake Mills July 2 and 3.
The post made on Davies’ Facebook page called out counter protestors flying the confederate flag at Commons Park during the protest. Davies wrote about the accident in the park involving Ebony Anderson-Carter, a protestor who was cited by Lake Mills Police for pulling her vehicle into the right of way causing the accident with a white SUV. Anderson-Carter took to Facebook saying she had been targeted by a “racist white woman.”
After the social media firestorm in Lake Mills ensued, police dash camera video later showed Anderson-Carter caused the accident and lied about it in a Facebook live video to incite people to come to the city to protest. Davies’ post was taken down, but the damage according to community members, had been done.
“Without knowing any of the facts, Rachael Davies referred to this driver as ‘some expletive racist,’ said Darryl Krejci, during public comment at the meeting. “I’ve lived in this community for 23 years, I’ve seen and dealt with many horrible things during that time but never have I ever been so disappointed in someone I voted for.”
He said elected officials should be held to a higher standard.
Tara Johnson said she spoke on behalf of her family and others.
“Ms. Davies support of protestors who came through Lake Mills and her use of profanity is not an issue. The clear issue, as shown in her post, is her inability to wait for facts before passing judgement,” she said. “Her post spewed hatred, divisiveness and inaccuracies and prejudice toward the citizens of our town who elected her to serve as an impartial member of the school board.”
Janel Pauli said she has a lot of questions about the division in the community.
“We won’t always agree but we must find common ground to move forward,” she said. “We have to recognize there are inequalities in our society and be honest about what we can do to fix them.”
“She (Rachael Davies) pushed a false narrative of a racist white lady hitting a protestor’s car,” Pauli said. “What happens when the same situation plays out in this school?”
“Our schools have policies about bullying, but we have a school board member, the vice-president of the board of education, who is a bully.”
Dean Hogeboom said he saw Davies post full of profanity when he was out of town.
“I had no knowledge of the incident,” he said. “It was full of profanity and name calling and as a professional I don’t use those words.”
He went on to say it wasn’t appropriate to lay the blame elsewhere in subsequent posts.
“Making a call on something without knowing all the facts — is she going to do that again on the board here before she makes a decision? I’m not confident she has the ability to do that,” he said.
Carol Eck said Davies made herself a part of the problem.
“How can we instill moral fiber into the youth of this school district? We need the school district to step up and hold people accountable. This is unacceptable behavior for someone who is holding elected office for the school district.”
Jean Lynch discussed the Board of Education’s bylaws.
“I’ve been made aware of the comments on Facebook and I don’t think this was a one off,” Lynch said. “One that was not addressed was a very public statement on COVID and returning to school.”
Lynch read, “Board members should when writing or speaking on school matters on social media, to the media, legislature and other officials make it clear their views do not necessarily reflect the views of the board or their colleges on the board.”
She also said Davies violated ethics when she expressed a view on whether or not school should open in the fall.
“I find the communication, especially the one following the protest, really does compromise the board.”
Mick Selck, Lake Mills chief of police, who has been in the thick of the social media firestorm, said he has talked with parties on both sides of this issue.
“Regardless of how our community moves forward I have hope,” Selck said. “It occurred to me none of the people involved in this will stand for racial disparity. All parties were passionate about ensuring equality and not wanting racism in our community.”
Selck said the people in the room have done good things for the community.
“The last couple of weeks have been an educational experience for us all. We’ve learned a lot about false narratives and trust. I don’t know anyone who is not shocked by the claim and what actually happened.”
Selck questioned what will happen the next time something like this happens; he encouraged people on both sides of this issue to get involved with community initiatives and groups.
“It’s hard to speak publicly, the second you step into the spotlight people find a way to bring you down, critique each word choice and miss the bigger message. The issue here is too important to remain silent. As a leader in this community silence can speak volumes also.”
Andrea Graham, a parent in the district and educator in the Madison School District, discussed the racial inequalities that exist in the community.
“Why are some members of the community so offended by a mom and teacher sharing some resources to help adults talk to children about racism?”
Graham said her child and children she was working with at school were reaching out to her for help following the death of George Floyd.
“As educators we don’t just educate from 8-3 Monday through Friday,” she said.
Graham provided resources to Amanda Thompson, Lake Mills Elementary principal, to share with district families via email.
“I’ve heard from parents who are raising or have raised children of color in our community that we have work to do. There are instances of racism, bias and micro aggression against people of color in our community every day,” she said.
Jennifer Jones said she loves Lake Mills but says she’s seen more racism projected at people of color in the 10 years she’s lived here than she did the 35 years of living in California.
“When people get upset over a very emotional rant of a board member and are not upset about the men with confederate flags revving their engines as a high school student spoke about her desire for racial justice and are upset about a mother of people of color, the wife of a Black man it gives me pause,” Jones said. “I’m confused about the outrage and anger over this incident over any other.”
Ben Klepzig read an email he sent to board members saying he’s seen the video that prompted the post and the post in question.
“I support Ms. Davies. She made an impassioned statement on her feelings about race relations in Lake Mills from her personal Facebook account. While she is a public figure on the school board she did not communicate as a representative of the Lake Mills School District Board. She did not call out any individual. She called out against people who advocate for white supremacy, fly the confederate flag to intimidate and express hate in a public forum,” he said. “No reasonable individual would feel targeted by her communication and if they do they are self-identifying with racism and hate.”
He said having impassioned feelings on race relations does not disqualify someone from public office.
“It could help people of color feel more comfortable at school,” he said. “I’m aware of Ms. Davies personal connections to race. I also have a personal connection as my African American daughter attended Lake Mills High School. She experienced overt racism from fellow students during her time here.”
He said Lake Mills is not a safe place to speak out about racism, especially online.
The board will have a discussion on what they heard at Monday’s meeting July 27 immediately following the school district’s annual meeting at 7 p.m.
“What we saw here tonight deserves a conversation,” said Dave Roedl, board clerk.