School board member who uttered ‘crack the whip’ in regard to graduation rates called on to resign

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A school board member in Washington state is being called upon to resign after saying “we need to crack the whip” in regard to graduation rates.

What are the details?

Clover Park School District’s Paul Wagemann used the phrase during a Dec. 14 virtual board meeting, the Suburban Times reported.

Wagemann said he was referring to the 10% to 11% of district students who fail to graduate and that he meant the district needs to do all it can to help those students get their diplomas, the paper said.

But his opponent from the last school board election — Taniesha Lyons — said the phrase “is rooted in slavery” and demanded Wagemann’s resignation, calling him an “explicit racist” in a letter to the board.

According to Grammarist, “crack the whip” means “to push someone to work harder, to demand more work from someone or that someone work faster or longer” and makes no reference to slavery. Grammarist also said the phrase “describes the literal cracking of a whip over a horse’s head to startle him into obeying.”

Lyons also launched a petition in mid-December calling for Wagemann’s resignation. The petition has collected 190 signatures as of Tuesday.

“The Clover Park School Board cannot tell the community that they are working towards racial equity and require their staff to be culturally competent when a board member who can vote on policies that affect black and brown students within the district is a blatant racist,” she wrote in her letter to the board. “Paul maintaining his seat on the board, contradicts the Clover Park School District’s claims that racism and bigotry are not tolerated within the Clover Park School District. Paul is a considerable liability and puts the Clover Park school district at risk.”

How did district officials react?

Clover Park Education Association Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Filma Fontanilla said in a letter to the board that she was “hurt, appalled, and disgusted” by Wagemann’s remark.

Fontanilla also wrote that after board President Marty Schafer called out Wagemann for his “crack the whip” comment, Wagemann said, “I know what it means, and I meant it.” Fontanilla added that Schafer responded by saying, “That is not a comment I am comfortable with.”

The College Fix said it asked Wagemann and Schafer for comment on the matter and that Wagemann replied that he forwarded the outlet’s request to Schafer and the district superintendent. Schafer said no action was taken against Wagemann at a special Dec. 21 board meeting as its purpose was just “an opportunity to openly discuss and seek clarification,” the College Fix added.

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