‘A joke’ or ‘hatred toward Latinos?’ Kentucky school board member’s Facebook post causes stir

Woodford County Board of Education

Allison Pacey Richardson rejected calls Friday that she resign from the Woodford County school board after she posted a meme on her personal Facebook account that one citizen labeled ‘blatant racism.’

In an interview with the Herald-Leader Friday, Richardson confirmed that she posted a meme on her personal Facebook account that took aim at personal hygiene and showed a man wearing a sombrero with “MEXICO” on it.

It also said, “Mexican word of the Day: ice melter

“she said she showered, but ICE MELTER from far away.”

The meme included a URL from a Facebook page that contained similar messages.

Richardson told the Herald-Leader: “As I said before, it’s an off-the cuff joke. It has nothing to do with the way I conduct my business with the school board.”

“My personal Facebook has nothing to do with the school board. I don’t even have on there that I am a school board member,” Richardson said.

To those accusing her of being racist, “I would laugh at them and say no,” said Richardson. “It’s ridiculous.”

Superintendent Scott Hawkins said Friday that he and district officials do not condone the post.

If a teacher in his district had posted something similar, it would be a violation of the code of ethics, Hawkins said.

“Personally I don’t condone a post like that and the district, based on our mission and our values, the district doesn’t condone a post like that,” Hawkins told the Herald-Leader.

But he said Richardson was an elected official “and is not a person that I supervise.”

Hawkins said he notified both Richardson and Woodford County School Board Chairman Ambrose Wilson that he had received questions about the post from the news media.

Wilson did not immediately respond to questions from the Herald-Leader Friday.

Woodford County resident Robin Nelson Miller said in a Facebook post Friday, “I was shocked to see such blatant racism shared so shamelessly by a sitting school board member.”

Miller noted Richardson represents one of the leading school districts in the state of Kentucky. A little more than 15 percent of the district’s students were Hispanic or Latino in the 2017-18 school year, according to the latest statistics available from the Kentucky Department of Education’s website.

“While Allison’s free speech as an American is protected by the 1st Amendment, her position as a School Board Member is a position to which she was elected, and as such, she has a responsibility to WCPS, our students, our staff, our families, and our stakeholders, to exercise discretion,” Miller said on Facebook. “If Allison harbors hatred toward Latinos, she is not qualified to weigh in on decisions that impact their employment nor education in Woodford County Schools. School Board Member Allison Pacey Richardson’s disrespect for our students and their families is glaring. Please join me in calling for her resignation.”

Richardson disagreed.

“I don’t think that that meme harbors any hatred towards any group of people,” Richardson told the Herald-Leader. “It’s just a joke.”

At least two other people posted on Facebook that Richardson should resign. She said Friday that she won’t step down.

Although Miller thanked Richardson for removing “your hateful FB posts that proliferated conspiracy theories and disparaged Latinos,” Richardson said she didn’t delete anything and she didn’t “intend to. I don’t have a problem with anyone except people who are easily offended by off the cuff humor. And I love all of God’s children. It’s the parents I usually have an issue with.”

Some backed Richardson. “ I have some inside knowledge of the school systems, and she is the best thing that has happened to this county in a long time,” Karen Pease Meadows said.

Mary Nehring, the chairperson of the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission, told WLEX that the private posts sent an inappropriate message to students.

“All children need to go to school and feel safe comfortable and eager to learn,” Nehring told WLEX..

Nehring did not immediately respond to questions from the Herald-Leader. Dan Brown, a member of the Human Rights Commission, told the Herald-Leader on Friday that as far as he knew, the commission had received no complaints regarding the post.