On October 11, 2021, the Intercept reported on an Ohio State Board of Education member who has refused to condemn white supremacy. Board member Diana Fessler criticized Resolution 20—an anti-racism resolution passed in July 2020, just weeks after the murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer—asserting that it violated the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The resolution called for the state to provide implicit bias training for board members, examine school curricula for racial bias, and develop new practices for staff development, hiring, and student discipline. As the Intercept reported, Fessler “inaccurately referred to the resolution in question as a measure on critical race theory.”
After four new members were elected in November 2020, and three new members were appointed by Republican governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio State Board of Education voted 14-4 to bring the resolution to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to determine its legality. During a subsequent meeting, held by the Ohio House Government Oversight Committee, Fessler stated that the resolution “seems patently noncompliant with the Civil Rights Act of 1964” because it required the State Board of Education to condemn “white supremacy culture” in “the highest terms possible.”
In response to Fessler’s remarks, a ranking member of the Government Oversight Committee, Democratic Representative Bride Rose Sweeney of Cleveland, stated, “There should be zero controversy over condemning white supremacy as a hateful culture of violence and division. Instead, Ms. Fessler’s comments showcase not only severe racial bias but also the extremism infecting the Ohio Legislature.”
The Ohio State Board of Education anti-racism repealed the resolution in October 2021. Many Republican board members agreed with Fessler that it was “dangerous,” and “anti-American.” After voting against its repeal, the board’s standing president, Laura Kohler, and another board member, Erik Poklar, were pressured to resign. Charlotte McGuire and Steve Dackin, who both voted in favor of repealing the resolution, were subsequently elected as the board’s new president and vice president.
As of late November 2021, a review of coverage using ProQuest’s U.S. Major News Dailies indicates that this story has been ignored by the nation’s major establishment news outlets. In October 2021, The Columbus Dispatch covered the repeal of the anti-racism resolution, including a news photos of a protestor opposed to the resolution holding a sign that reads “Stop Cultural Marxism.”
Source: Akela Lacy, “Ohio State Board of Education Member Defends White Supremacy,” The Intercept, October 11, 2021.
Student Researchers: Ava Mullin, Erin Hellauer, Robert Giannelli, and Julia Ware (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)