Connie Bernard faces renewed calls for resignation from colleagues on EBR school board, community over Robert E. Lee controversy
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard is again facing an onslaught of scrutiny during her tenure as District 8 representative.
The latest controversy centers on comments made by Bernard which implied members of the public needed to perform more research into the legacy of confederate commander Robert E. Lee before supporting calls to strip Lee’s name from a Baton Rouge high school.
Bernard’s comments come as the country reaches a critical moment in its efforts to reconcile with the oppression of black Americans and communities of color.
At a board meeting Thursday, June 18, Bernard’s colleagues condemned her comments.
“It’s unfortunate that the comments that you made were just extremely tone-deaf to our collective community, extremely tone-deaf to the students of our district, and I would be remiss if I didn’t stand up to that,” said board vice president Tremelle Howard, addressing Bernard directly at Thursday’s meeting.
“If we have to get uncomfortable and have these conversations from colleague-to-colleague, it’s time that we do it,” said Howard.
Bernard, at that meeting, was accused of avoiding conversations about the name change and her comments after a photo of her computer screen began circulating social media.
That photo shows an online clothing shop’s website pulled up on Bernard’s browser window at some point during the meeting.
District 2 board member Dadrius Lanus, who proposed the name change, was among those who expressed outrage at Bernard’s behavior.
He has since called for Bernard’s resignation in a post shared to his social media page Saturday, June 20.
In the post, Lanus says:
"You had every single opportunity to apologize after you embarrassed our School Board on the news by openly supporting the legacy of Robert E. Lee but you did not!
You had every opportunity to apologize during the board meeting but instead you chose to shop for dresses while members from our community, including parents and teachers, waited 7 hours to speak on an item that concerns our students!
That same video has now gone viral and has been seen by over 2 million people all over the world!
Think about how this makes our city and parish look!
Had this been myself or any other black board member there is no question we would been off the board 2 years ago!
If it were a teacher or support worker they would have been fired immediately so why should she receive special treatment!?
Let me be clear, on this you will NOT get a pass!
Your ‘apology’ is a day late and a dollar short!
In the last 48 hours, emails have been pouring in calling for your immediate resignation, including your own constituents!
And as I said at the board meeting, ‘I will NEVER wait again to answer the call of the people because some issues too important to wait!'
Today, I join those voices in asking that you do the right thing and step down from our BREC Board and submit your letter of resignation to our School Board effective immediately! If you want to fix the problem please remove yourself from the situation!”
The apology and explanation referenced in Lanus’ statement were published in The Advocate newspaper.
Bernard did not return multiple requests for comment from WAFB.
Lanus called both the apology and explanation “unacceptable.”
Howard also issued a statement on his social media page Saturday.
Howard’s statement can be read below:
“The world is watching!
We’ve received a mass amount of emails over the last few hours asking for the resignation of Board Member Connie Bernard! Let the record reflect I stand in solidarity with you!
The actions taken by my colleague are inexcusable.
The half apology does not represent a sincere understanding of the years of hurt and pain presented on Thursday by the members of this community!
Every action requires a consequence!
I Tramelle Howard member of the East Baton Rouge School Board representing District 3 ask for the immediate resignation of Board Member Connie Bernard!
Let’s heal our community and your resignation begins that healing!”
Howard ended his post with the hashtag Bye Connie.
Legally, the board is not able to remove one of its own members.
A voter recall is the only plausible way forward outside of Bernard resigning willingly. Her term ends in 2022, otherwise.
She previously served as the school board’s vice president before resigning to help a family member facing a health crisis.
Shortly before the resignation, Bernard was cited after being involved in a physical and verbal dispute with a teenager on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018.
She issued an apology shortly after an explicit video of the incident leaked.
Bernard maintained that her resignation and the incident were unrelated, at last check.
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