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Fueling the Fire: Blevins School Board takes a major misstep with award

Fueling the Fire: Blevins School Board takes a major misstep with award

January 11th, 2017 by Gazette Staff in Opinion Editorial

More news from the Blevins, Ark., School Board.

Blevins, Ark., is a little town in Hempstead County, not far from Hope. Readers will recall that several weeks ago photos were made public of a Blevins School Board member named Ted Bonner decked out in blackface at a Halloween party. He was holding a sign with the words "Blak Lives Matters"—the poor spelling and grammar intentional.

Bonner also wore a crumpled hat reminiscent of minstrel shows and cartoon stereotypes, and he appeared to have blackened some teeth.

Needless to say, Bonner's costume sparked outrage. There have been numerous calls for his resignation, and community activists have attended school board meetings, hoping something would be done.

But Blevins has no provision to recall a school board member. And he can't be fired from his elected position. So the district's hands are tied in that regard. Any decision on whether or not to resign before his term is up in 2018 is up to Bonner and so far he hasn't show any indication of leaning in that direction.

But this week the school board did have something to say to Mr. Bonner.

On Monday night, in a meeting that, according to KATV in Little Rock, only 28 people were allowed to attend, Bonner was named "Outstanding School Board Member."

No, we aren't kidding. You can't make this kind of stuff up.

To get the award, Bonner completed 25 hours of professional development studies with the Arkansas School Boards Association. It's pretty much an automatic thing across the state—do the 25 hours, get an award.

Some might deem Monday's presentation unrelated to Bonner's earlier actions. Nonetheless, it sends a very wrong message.

Bonner has brought national attention to Blevins, but not in a way that could remotely be seen as good. He has tarred the Blevins School District, the school board and the people of that community.

This award only serves to confirm what a lot of folks already believe.

What was the school board thinking? What Bonner did for Halloween was dumb, no doubt about it. Giving him an award—even one so innocuous—in any official setting, seems clearly defiant.

We are sure the good people of Blevins want to put this incident in the past. We are sure school officials want the same.

But things like this only fuel the fire. And as long as Bonner refuses to leave the board that fire will burn.

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