The Franklin Special School District issued a statement concerning a controversial social media post on the board of education chairman's personal Facebook page.
"We, the members of the Board of Education of the Franklin Special School District, are aware of a controversial posting on social media by Tim Stillings, who serves as an elected, at-large member of the Board of Education," the statement reads. "The now-deleted posting does not bear any endorsement from the Board and does not represent or reflect the values and beliefs of the Franklin Special School District."
On Friday, Tim Stillings, the FSSD school board chairman, shared a post on Facebook for which he quickly received backlash from the community, saying the post had negative racial implications.
The shared post read, styled in all capital letters: "7 NFL players fathered 68 kids with 52 different women. Maybe the knee isn't the problem."
Stillings promptly removed the post and wrote a response online.
"Today, in a span of less than 5 seconds, I read someone's posting and then, without any further thought of the implications of the post, hit the 'share' button," he wrote on Friday. "Shortly thereafter, when I learned that someone for whom I have much respect for had taken offense to it, I immediately removed it and then tried to gain an understanding as to why they were offended."
He further shared he was "focused on the 'NFL' reference, not the implications that one might draw that it referred to any one group" and encouraged the community to get to know him, saying he respects "each human as one of God's children, equal in His sight."
Courtenay Rogers, treasurer of the Williamson County Democratic Party and mother of an FSSD student, shared that Stillings sent her a message on Facebook asking her to explain why she was offended by the post. In Stillings' online apology, he welcomed anyone to reach out and have a conversation about the issue.
"If you want to talk with me individually about this, please send me your phone number and I will reach out to you for a conversation," he wrote.
Some parents shared they had called the district about the issue and were told that Stillings' account had been hacked, a claim Stillings later denied to have said. Several parents voiced their frustrations, some (including Rogers) even calling for Stillings to resign.
60% of the students served by FSSD are not white. I've asked for his resignation.— Courtenay Wears a Mask in Public Rogers (@courtenayrogers) September 4, 2020
Others shared their appreciation for Stillings' apology.
"I have tremendous respect for someone who acknowledges when they make a mistake and apologizes," Ben Gates commented on Facebook. "Also someone who continues to take the high road when others go low hurling insults. It’s childish behavior we should be bigger than. Especially when most things said on here would never be said in person."
The FSSD school board did not ask for Stillings' resignation. The board's statement said its members and Director of Schools David Snowden appreciated the many calls they received concerning the issue.
"We agree with many others who found the posting inappropriate and offensive and we have all expressed these sentiments to Mr. Stillings and to the Director of Schools," the statement read.
"While it was posted on his personal account, there is no place in our society where comments such as those he posted, even in jest, are acceptable. As an elected public official and chairman of our school board, we hold Mr. Stillings — as well as ourselves — to a higher degree of accountability.
"Moving forward, the Board encourages Mr. Stillings to listen, learn and understand more about how such microaggressions can harm public trust and create divisiveness. Mr. Stillings has removed the offensive post and replaced it with an apology and a promise to speak directly to those who would like to share their thoughts with him.
"The FSSD Board of Education has a diverse membership from many different walks of life. Our range of voices and perspectives enable us to have meaningful conversations around difficult topics. We are also proud of the extraordinary effort it takes to be a perennial Tennessee School Boards Association Board of Distinction. A large part of that honor is derived from the many hours of professional learning in which we all participate to become better public servants.
"This event, while unfortunate, shines a light on the need for more conversation and growth in the areas of racial sensitivity and awareness. The Board will continue to work together, alongside members of our community, district staff, and students, to strengthen the social emotional influences that we can provide to of all members of the Franklin Special School District family."
To learn more about the FSSD, visit FSSD.org.