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Florence group upset over insensitive words used by former school board member in emails

(WPDE)

Lifeline Plus held a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside the Florence School District One (FSD1) on Dargan Street in Florence in regards to racially insensitive emails sent from a former school board member to a district employee.

Members of the group are longtime civil rights activists who have regularly attended FSD1 school board members for more than 30 years.

The group is upset over a matter involving former and veteran school board member Glenn Odom.

Odom used racially insensitive terminology in regards to fellow school board members in two separate emails back in August, according to FSD1 Public Information Officer Pamela Little McDaniel.

We're told the derogatory language referred to the black school board members. We have requested a copy of the emails.

Odom resigned Tuesday after 25 years on the school board representing District 5 in the City of Florence.

McDaniel said School Board Chairman Barry Townsend accepted Odom's resignation, which cited the move of his home from District Five to District Two in Florence.

Elder James Williams with Lifeline Plus said he's seen a copy of the emails and is appalled by what he read.

"You really don't expect those kinds of things to happen today, and then even though, not, being naive, you know, they do happen. But, you don't expect it to happen from professional people, professional acting in professional capacities, and especially in leadership capacity in education," said Williams.

Williams said Lifeline Plus is asking that all of the members of the school board be given racial and cultural training to help all members learn about, and respect, the cultural differences of students.

"I'm here now calling for transparency, cultural diversity, and I think those things are important. That's why you need cultural diversity training and all kind of things to kind of help people gain an appreciation for people that are different than they are," said Williams.

Lifeline Plus said this situation is a sure sign why FSD1 shouldn't be lifted from a 46-year-old desegregation order.

The U.S. Justice Department ordered the district in 1970 to implement a plan to desegregate its schools.

The Department evaluated the district's desegregation plan in 1996 and found that it didn't fully comply with its obligations under the 1970 and 1971 orders.

FSD1 then entered into a consent order with the U.S. Justice Department to make sure its schools are more racially balanced.

Back in April, FSD1 attorney Laurence McIntosh filed a petition asking the Department to dismiss the order.

"At the very time our district is attempting to have the discrimination consent and desegregation order dismissed, an order that has been allowed to linger for 46 years, we learn that race continues to be an issue for some," said Williams.

FSD1 Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges attended the news conference and recording it on a cell phone, but didn't say anything during the 10 minute event.

School board members are expected to discuss Odom’s departure at its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday night.

Members of the Legislative Delegation can appoint a citizen to replace Odom until the November 2018 elections. Odom’s term expires in 2020.

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