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EACS board chief chided over picture

November 14, 2018

An East Allen County Schools board member publicly called for the board president’s resignation Tuesday over his behavior on Halloween : dressing as President Donald Trump and posing for a photograph with someone in apparent blackface.

Board President Bob Nelson, along with the other five members, didn’t acknowledge Paulette Nellems’ request, which she made during board comments at the meeting’s end.

After the meeting, Nellems said her colleagues’ reaction spoke for itself. “It’s evident how they responded,” she said.

Nellems is the only black school board member; everyone else is white.

She asserted Nelson violated the Indiana School Boards Association’s code of ethics, which states school board members should refuse to play politics in the traditional sense. East Allen’s code of conduct states board members must adhere to the state organization’s guidance.

Trump has divided the country, Nellems said.

“To dress up as the president of the United States : first, I want to say (Nelson) has every right,” Nellems said. “The Constitution gives us the right to freedom of speech and expression, but once you become a board member, a public figure, there is a code of ethics. ... There’s an expectation that we all should want from those who lead us.”

Constituents have called and emailed Nellems about the issue, she said.

“We should be appalled that (Nelson) has the audacity to sit here as if that don’t mean anything,” Nellems said. “It means a lot. It means a lot to me. And to dress up in blackface, no. To take pictures, you should be appalled. And I am appalled, and I am frustrated.”

Nelson said after the meeting he has no plans to resign.

“In my 61 years, I have never been called a racist,” he said. “Those who know me, know my heart. I do not now or never will condone the use of blackface or any other racially sensitive action.”

Nelson, who announced his run for New Haven mayor in March, has deleted the controversial photo from his Facebook page. He has said it was among dozens taken of him at a Halloween event that drew upward of 1,800 trick-or-treaters.

The issue generated no public feedback during the meeting, which was held at the Paul Harding Junior High School/East Allen University campus.

In other business, the board unanimously approved items related to the closeout of the Leo Elementary School construction and the installation of synthetic turf fields at four schools.

Nearly 3,080,900 to $3,079,423.92.

About 85,000 contingency allowance for the turf fields was used to correct soil issues at Heritage and Woodlan. The board formally approved returning the unused balance : $64,377 : to the aggregate project contingency.

asloboda@jg.net

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