Students Demand Resignation of Broward School Board Member After Facebook Post

Broward school board member Ann Murray
Broward school board member Ann Murray Photo via Broward County Public Schools
click to enlarge Broward school board member Ann Murray - PHOTO VIA BROWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Broward school board member Ann Murray
In 2011, activists demanded the resignation of Broward County school board member Ann Murray after learning that, years earlier, she had referred to the upper-level section of what was then Sun Life Stadium as "[n-word] heaven."

She later apologized but refused to step down. Now, almost a decade later, a recent social-media post from Murray has set off renewed calls for her removal — this time, by a younger group of critics.

On Sunday, Murray reposted a meme on Facebook that read, "When I was born, they must have ran out of white privilege because I had to work my ass off to get where I am." She later removed the post and claimed it was the work of a hacker who hijacked her account, according to the Sun Sentinel.

"If anyone has received anything [about] a post with a TAG in it, DELETE it ASAP. I apologize for anything posted, that was disrespectful," the 77-year-old wrote in a follow-up post. "Anyone who sees anything UNUSUAL, text me and ask."

Murray, who told the Sun Sentinel that she swore on her husband's grave that she didn't repost the meme, didn't respond to requests for comment from New Times.

Murray's post and subsequent lack of apology sparked an immediate backlash from students and teachers across Broward County. Last week, a group of students who collectively run the Instagram page @BLMWeston posted a petition demanding her resignation. More than 800 people have signed it so far.

The creator of the petition, 16-year-old Joy Rice, tells New Times she doesn't want someone like Murray who has a history of making racially insensitive comments to be representing her and other Black students in Broward County.

"I just thought that she, as someone that is on the education board, cannot be ignorant on certain things like that, especially because Broward County has a large amount of Black students," Rice says.

A group of nearly 20 students, most of whom attend Cypress Bay High School in Weston, has been using the @blmweston Instagram account since early June to organize and share resources in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Until recently, they say, they've mostly remained anonymous out of fear of retaliation after receiving several threats ahead of a previous protest they planned. (Because of this, some students asked New Times to use their first names only.)

As the people directly affected by Murray's decision-making, the students say they feel a responsibility to call her out and ask for her removal.

"If she has this prejudice already, she should step down early from her term and not finish it," says Joseph Mullen, an 18-year-old student and founder of the Young Delegates Coalition. "Unfortunately, we don't expect that to happen. But if she's given another two years to keep making decisions and stunt the progress in our school system, there's not gonna be progress for Black students in our county."

Murray, who was first elected in 2008, represents District 1, which encompasses portions of Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, and Dania Beach. Her current term on the school board ends in 2022.

The students behind the petition say their goals are to get Murray to step down and to force greater accountability for other people in power in the community. They believe it's problematic that Superintendent Robert Runcie, who took the job in 2011, has not spoken out against Murray's actions.

"Even when they put Black people in positions of power in Broward County, they become a face of like, 'Oh, look, we have a Black superintendent. We can't be racist,'" says Olivia, a 17-year-old student. "But then these things keep happening and nothing happens after it."

The students point out that Murray's actions are part of a larger problem of diversity and representation on the Broward County School Board. They feel the lack of term limits for Florida school boards is one issue, but most concerning to them is that a county where more than 40 percent of students are Black has only one Black school-board member, Rosalind Osgood.

"People who look like Ann, people of Ann's age and race are the ones who are making decisions for people who are nothing like Ann," says Ameerah, a 17-year-old student. "It just doesn't really make sense, especially if they're not looking out for people of color."

The students say they were shocked to see the amount of support for their petition, especially in Weston, a predominantly white and Hispanic area. They felt similarly surprised on June 12 when around 300 people showed up for the Black Lives Matter protest they organized in the city.

Elijah Manley, who ran for a seat on the Broward school board in 2018 at the age of 19, tells New Times he has known Murray for a couple of years, and the news of her recent comments didn't really surprise him. He adds that he doesn't believe her account was hacked.

"She owes us a lot better," says Manley, who's now 21 and running for the Florida House of Representatives. "She owes us so much more than denying that she made those statements."

Manley, who is Black, says that while he doesn't believe Murray is a bad character or is even explicitly racist, "you don't necessarily have to be an open racist to do or say racist things." He points out that comments like Murray's are harmful because they contribute to the false idea that racism and white privilege don't exist. He feels it's especially important for someone like Murray, who sits in a position of power and represents thousands of students of color, to know better.

"I think when we're talking about white privilege, a lot of people get mixed up about what that means," Manley says. "Having white privilege doesn't mean your life is not difficult — it just means that the color of your skin is not one of the things that's making your life difficult."

Manley believes Murray should not only apologize for her actions but also reach out to young Black students in the community to hear their concerns and gain a better understanding of why her comments were hurtful.

If Murray chooses not to resign, Manley hopes she'll use her remaining time on the board to fight white supremacy in the education system.

"You know, racism isn't just about mean things and bad names, but it's also about power," Manley says. "When you're holding onto a seat that long, you know, just holding on to that and not really using that power to empower people of color and put everybody in an equitable playing field, then you're part of the problem."

Correction: This story has been updated to correctly identify Murray's district.
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Alex DeLuca is a former intern at Miami New Times. A rising senior at the University of Florida, she’s studying journalism and political science. She previously worked as a reporter and editor at the school’s student newspaper, the Independent Florida Alligator.