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Wilson School District censures board member over comments deemed racist, transphobic

  • Gabriela Martínez/WITF
Wilson School Board member Mike Martin speaks at the Nov. 14, 2022 meeting.

 Screenshot from the Wilson School Board livestream

Wilson School Board member Mike Martin speaks at the Nov. 14, 2022 meeting.

Wilson School District’s board of directors voted unanimously Monday to censure fellow member Mike Martin, saying he made racist and transphobic remarks at recent meetings.

Martin’s history of troubling comments at board meetings dates back at least to October, when he  said transgender identity in children is “inappropriate” and “wrong,” and that parents of transgender children “should be punished.” 

 At a Nov. 1 meeting, Martin complained about people comparing the Holocaust to Japanese internment camps, and said Japanese internment camps were not as bad as Nazi death camps. “They were all fed. They were educated. Everything was above board,” he said.

At a Nov. 7 meeting, when board members asked him to apologize for previous comments, Martin – a white man – read an excerpt  from an article he claimed was from a Black author, whom he did not name. The article makes use of the word “thug” and references stereotypes about how young Black people dress and listen to music. The article he read aloud in the public meeting also states that Black people are offended easily and “act ignorantly” when criticized.

“Sometimes we don’t want to address issues that we should be addressing when it comes to discipline within our schools,” Martin said, adding that sometimes school administration is afraid of disciplining “a group” because they are afraid of offending them.

“I think we need to start addressing those issues in a more formidable way versus just trying to accommodate because of the certain situation or their upbringing,” he said. 

At the start of Monday’s meeting, Martin apologized for his remarks. 

“I realized that my timing and approach is wrong and caused the community to be hurt. I take full responsibility for that, and the pain that I have caused you,” Martin said. 

He denied being a racist, and said he was trying to “further a conversation about student behavior.”

The school board Monday also heard from teachers, parents and community members, most of whom condemned Martin’s remarks and called on him to step down. 

“I will not allow my grandchildren to be dehumanized, and I will not allow the young men who are in this audience who are black and brown skin young men to be put in a box anymore. I am tired,” said Bernard McCree, who works at Kutztown University.

A group of students of color shared their thoughts and experiences  at the meeting, and explained why the comments were hurtful. 

“I’ve worked so hard to become an accomplished young black woman, despite all the barriers and obstacles that have been thrown my way because of the color of my skin, said Elon Ruley-Donadell, a senior and captain of the volleyball team. “Never in a million years did I think I would have to be here fighting for my rights at a school that’s supposed to protect and welcome me.”

Makih Cooper, a senior on the football team, said he felt the remarks minimized his experiences growing up.

“I was hurt deeply because I came up in a single-father household raised by an African-American father,” Cooper said. I was raised really good, and taken care of really well, and have respect for myself,” Cooper said, 

Screenshot from the Wilson School Board livestream

Wilson School Board on Nov. 14, 2022.

Cameron Jones, another senior football player at Wilson High School, wrote and printed a petition calling on Martin to resign. Over 1,000 students signed it. 

“This is our first step, obviously, we’re trying to eliminate, if not all, but as much racism in the school as possible,” Jones said.

Two community members who spoke at the meeting defended Martin.

The resolution states that Wilson School district’s board opposed Martin’s comments and that it “does not accept or condone racist, hateful, or any comments that condone discrimination made about any individual or group.” Martin will also be stripped of his position as board treasurer, and will not be able to serve on any board committees. It also calls on Martin to resign.

“With this resolution, we’re stating that we as a public school district, which is the heart of our community, is for everyone–period–every single student, every single family, I don’t care what you look like, who you love. We are here for you,” said School Board President Steph Kocher before the board voted on the resolution.

Martin was given a final chance to give remarks. He said he is still processing  “a lot of the information.” 

“I do respect everybody’s opinions. I really do respect everybody in this particular room. And just thank you,” Martin said.

Eight board board members voted “yes” on the resolution. Martin abstained. In a previous interview with The Reading Eagle, Martin said he does not plan to resign.


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