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School Board Chairman Colleen Conklin On the Trump Election: “Words Matter”

| November 22, 2016

colleen conklin

Colleen Conklin today ends a two-year tenure as chairman of the Flagler County School Board, but will remain on the board for the next four years. (© FlaglerLive)

By Colleen Conklin

I have been struggling whether or not to publicly address several issues since the conclusion of this insane election cycle. I didn’t want to contribute to any type of pot-stirring. Please know that is not my intent. However, after the encouragement from someone I highly respect I felt the need to say something. I certainly do not want my silence to be taken for approval.

As a School Board member in Flagler County I feel responsible to reassure our parents, staff and students of our commitment to the core value of providing students with a safe learning environment. Our mission is to educate our students and empower them to reach their full potential as responsible, ethical, and productive citizens in a diverse and changing world. Mutual trust and respect for each other are also core values that help us accomplish our goals.

True confession: I was attracted to the Trump vote because he wasn’t going to be owned by anyone and could possibly bring back some sense of local control. I am sick and tired of being told how to educate our children. I am sick and tired of big-book publishers and testing companies controlling education. I am sick and tired of the corporate takeover of public education.

Charter schools and voucher programs don’t freak me out. Hold them accountable, require that they are transparent with our tax dollars and have at it. The message to my colleagues in public education: don’t blow it. Provide the most amazing educational opportunity for students, and they won’t leave. As of today, I don’t fear President-elect Trump. He is not a right-wing conservative Republican. He’s not even a Republican. He’s a lifelong Democrat who likes to win. He’s more comfortable with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell than he is with House Speaker Paul Ryan. He is now our President.

But he needs to acknowledge that words matter.

I recognize the desire to move past the election results. The voters have spoken. For the good of our nation we collectively should be rooting for the president-elect to succeed. His failure is our failure. However, that doesn’t mean an automatic pass on the vile comments he spewed over the last several months. This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s about the civility and integrity of the highest office in our country.

Denounce vile statements and expect more from the person who holds the highest office in the land.

All the fear-mongering and protesting is not helping. However, ignoring what has been said and attempting to erase it as though it was never said is not helping, either. I believe it’s dangerous. Our president-elect has made horrendous statements which have outraged individuals on both sides of the aisle and beyond those aisles where America shines much more richly than as mere Republicans and Democrats. I understand the need for some to ignore Trump’s statements. But political leaders, both locally and nationally, must own what has been said and be bold enough to not accept it, denounce it and expect more from the person who holds the highest office in the land.

As a School Board member and educator, I often think about life from a child’s perspective. We must know that children have been listening to all of this for months now. The worst was being played out on TV repeatedly.  It’s heartbreaking to personally hear children express fear about the man who is going to be the President of our country all because of the color of their skin, or because they’re worried that their family may be deported.

To know the mother whose child was born different from the rest of us, and to see and hear those differences made fun of instead of celebrated, is wrong.

To see young girls continually question their value when strong, intelligent women are reduced to objects, to a thing valued only for its look or slimness, is wrong.

To hear the parent who tells her sons to not wear a “Make America Great Again” ball-cap for fear they could get hurt is wrong.

To accept that a middle school child at Imagine School last week was simply drawing or playing when he placed a swastika on the arms and hands of children is just wrong.

To deny the connection of any of these events to the election is irresponsible. We must educate our children that they are unacceptable and our soon to be President should drive home this point for the good of our country. 

We just can’t ignore it and make believe there are no consequences.  This election has impacted our children whether we want to acknowledge it or not.  This isn’t about suck it up buttercup or trophies for everyone. This is about emboldening a generation to say and do whatever they please with no concern for others and no awareness of consequences.

I’m searching for common ground that we can all agree upon. I believe we wouldn’t want anyone saying those things to our own children or our grandchildren. I have to believe President-elect Trump himself would not want anyone referring to his children in this way.  This type of discourse erodes trust and respect for each other.  I pray we come together as a country for the sake of the next generation and take great care in what we say and do.

I respectfully call on our political leaders to denounce anything less. I’m hopeful as President-elect Trump transitions to hold the highest office in our nation that he acknowledges what he’s said is inappropriate and reminds the next generation to take great care in the words they use.  May God bless and guide our President-elect. 

Colleen Conklin, first elected to the Flagler County School Board, will be sworn-in to her fifth term this morning. She is the senior-most elected official in Flagler County.

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44 Responses for “School Board Chairman Colleen Conklin On the Trump Election: “Words Matter””

  1. Respond with Love says:

    Thank you, Colleen. Well said.

  2. The Ghost of America says:

    so let me get this right. You are sick and tired of being told how to educate “our children,” you are sick and tired of big book companies and testing companies controlling “education,” and you – just so I’m reading this right, you are sick and tired of the corporate takeover of public education, so you voted for trump?

    Oh the delicious irony. And now, after acknowledging that he’s said horrible things and is literally surrounding himself with the nut baggiest of the nut bags you want him to apologize for what he’s said? People like you put him there, people that overlooked all of his behavior and words and voted for him anyway. You don’t get to complain about how swastikas drawn on the arms and hands of kids is just wrong, because your vote put them there. So frankly, suck it up buttercup, and enjoy the next 4 years of being back in the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s – Kent state shootings and all.

  3. Irene Kaphan says:

    Very well written Colleen. These are the words of a true professional. I applaud you for the courage to publicly address these very important issues. I personally could not agree with you more. Thank you for the commitment and support you give to the children and young adults of Flagler County.

  4. Steve Robinson says:

    Ms. Conklin: First you say that Trump is a “lifelong Democrat who likes to win.” Then you go on to say that Trump has to repudiate all the comments he made during the campaign that have sowed fear and inflamed bigotry across our country. Don’t you understand that Trump won precisely because his comments sowed fear and inflamed bigotry? As an educator you should acknowledge that “winning” by appealing to uneducated people’s fear and prejudices is a loss for our country that may be impossible to reverse.

  5. tulip says:

    Colleen, you are right on. Excellent article! I agree about the education system and in particular I agree with your opinion that people, government officials, certain groups should not be maligning Trump and spewing bad words about him and acting hateful.

    As a song title says “I’m proud to be an American”. We all should act like we are, and stop being negative and using scare tactics, protesting, violence and frightening young people and minorities because some disapprove of who got elected. Trump is flawed so is Hillary and their are serious complaints on both sides. I personally am willing to give something new a chance and not listen to and read every political word on and concentrate on creating enjoyable and peaceful things for myself and family. It feels so much better.

  6. 20 something F PC says:

    Steve, you are not completely accurate with your statement either. “Don’t you understand that Trump won precisely because his comments sowed fear and inflamed bigotry” is a false statement. Not everyone who voted Trump voted for him because they agree with the nasty comments he made. Quite contrary in fact. Some people voted for Trump to put an end to the ‘woe is me’ type attitude that so many more Americans are surfacing as the years go on. Also, the word bigot gets thrown around the word love in middle school. Bigotry, intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself… sounds like the majority of the democrats after the election.

  7. Makeitso1701 says:

    Steve, spot on!!!

  8. Joan says:

    Well spoken. Thank you for reminding us of what our children are seeing and hearing and how this will impact us all.

  9. Pierre Tristam says:

    20 Something, taking as accurate that “Not everyone who voted Trump voted for him because they agree with the nasty comments he made” doesn’t diminish the equally accurate reality that Trump would not have been elected without the segment of his base that very much responded to his nastiness: the alt-right effect is not an illusion, nor is the wave of triumphal bigotry sweeping the country. But if we’re going to hold our language accountable—if we’re going to insist on using language responsibly, as we must, as Trump does not—then you should do so as well: by demonstrating opposition or decrying such appointments as that of the racist nationalist Steve Bannon, for example, the Democrats or liberals you’re referring to have not been “bigoted,” they’ve voiced their convictions, as is their right—precisely to speak up against intolerance. It’s ironic that you’re making your comment on just a piece as Conklin’s, who is denouncing bigotry and calling for people of good character to take the stand they must. Unfortunately the victors have very effectively decided that since anything goes, since whatever can be said over and over again can begin to sound true, as was the case during the campaign, then insulting anti-bigotry protesters as “bigots” could easily become the dominant narrative. In some respect it has: your comment is proof. That doesn’t make it true, let alone intellectually honest. You know it as much as calling the color purple pale green just because you say so doesn’t make it so. But that’s the fight ahead. There’s innumerable places where you can make manufactured false assumptions and make irresponsible accusations. In places like here, you won’t so easily get away with it.

  10. James Joy says:

    I appreciate the sentiment, but make a long story short, forget the politics, educators need to address how they are going to stop the slide of of academic achievement form the best in the world to the mediocrity that exists today. It’s fine to talk platitudes, better to talk plans of how we are going improve academic results. Even better to report actual improvement. Start with this goal ” improve education so the USA doesn’t have to import tech talent from other countries any more.” Just a starter.

  11. James Joy says:

    Pierre, to respond to your missive, above. You are absolutely right ” just because someone says something is true doesn’t make it so” . Does that include you? I say calling our president racist, facist, islamaphobiic, and any other “Ist” word you and your alt. Left radical friends can think of is bigoted. I think you all believe I am a racist for daring to disagree with your politics. Oh well. So be it.

  12. Sheila Zinkerman says:

    Words matter and the words you use impact the attitudes of others as we witnessed on November 8th. It may help if Donald Trump recants and apologizes for his vile statements, but based on past and current mind-changing performances by President-Elect Trump, his apology will be worthless.

  13. The Ghost of America says:

    Well James, it’s like this. The current state of academic achievement is in part a direct consequence of politics. Bush didn’t want to leave any children behind, so we held the overachievers back, lowering the overall quality of education. Other legislators decided that teachers should get less for doing more, so we got common core and state testing targets that teachers have to adhere to instead of, you know, teaching.

    Hiring tech talent from out of country is a different issue, because you can get them here with h-2b visas for cheap.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Whatever Colleen!! Sorry but you can’t blame the downfall of our education system in the last. 20 years on our new president. You can blame it on invisible parents, uncaring teachers, and the economic climate. The real point is you say you don’t want to”stir the pot” but we all know that’s exactly what your doing !

  15. Colleen Conklin says:

    Ghost – I never said I voted for him.
    Steve – yes, I believe I understand the numerous ways and reasons he was elected. The result was not a total surprise to me, that wasn’t really the point of my piece. I’m sure books will be written about that topic.

  16. J3 says:

    I appreciate the effort here but if you thought words mattered you wouldn’t have been attracted to vote for him and he wouldn’t be President.

  17. Cuban joe says:

    I’m not highly educated,I dropped out in tenth grade,but one thing I have learned and seen in this country is the I’m entitled attitude,and the status who especially with white (not all whites)mentality folks.I have seen first hand some one get fired from a job because of they’re views.I’ve seen you’re my friend you’re white has not and good people have been fired it not given a position that deserved.I personally was told in the second grade by a teacher who despised the growing number of Cubans in Miami florida I was an idiot savant and my people would soon be given an attitude adjustment.These hateful people who throw stones and hide.Are the biggest danger to date.We as a people need and have to under stand each other.Why is some one in poverty,why do more African American teens get charged with crimes cutting of they’re chances of having a good life.Why are Muslims thrown in one category,why are police officers granted ultimate power.If we don’t speak if we don’t associate with our neighbors problems and start seeing each other as brothers and sisters Americans United in one cause we all want the same things our kids tonprosper ,dignity respect,love,our beliefs to be respected.We are all humans before we were americansWe have to stop throwing rocks at each other.It’s one nation under god.We all have to look to our faith and say enough inwouldnt let the seeds of hate grow in my heart.Love your brother love our women repect them.If not will have a womanising genesration.This new generation of kids is more diverse than ever.And that’s what the hate,pushers know for fact is a threat to their views.And plans,the south will never rise again .and Nazi Germany will never return.This new generation will grow up and they will change the world.They are the ones we must defend .We have a duty to make sure our children who are protesting.And being out in jail cutting of they’re chances .while the h atefull parent keeps they’re childnoutnof trouble so they can lead we have to open our eyes.Who’s in fear?who’s protesting?who’s being out in jail our criminal system.This is what the white hate Aldrich Nazi movement want.Ms Conklin speak to the principal’s make sure these Nazis don’t keep putting kids in the system. For being just that kids.Fight for funding to have qualified behavioral counselors in our schools to have sessions with these kids.I rember when if a teacher thought things were wrong at home they called the parents and said what’s wrong how can we help.Love is the anwser .We have to get hurt and feel pain for our neighbors and with that comes real solutions to our real problems.Expose the corrupt bleeding our systems.Don’t play ball we know whats right.How many among us are willing to sacfrifice is the question.

  18. Cuban joe says:

    Please exscuse my grammar inheriting on a phone and with passion.Please exscuse

  19. woodchuck says:

    I can sleep better tonight knowing Colleen Conklin’s feelings and how she voted on the election.

  20. Sherry says:

    Thank you, Colleen, for your concern, and for your reasonable and articulate thoughts. It would be wonderful if all educators shared your concerns and opinions. Pierre and Steve. . . excellent points as well! Where as many (myself included) often use the word bigot as a softer form of the word racist, perhaps we should use the correct word where it is appropriate. It most certainly is in this situation.

    For those who constantly malign the publisher of this site, or other contributors, for pointing out the outrageous words and deeds of Trump and his followers. . . please stop shooting the messengers. It is not simply prejudicial “name calling” when there is a massive amount of publicly available television footage that solidly substantiates those observations.

    No ethical, educated person of intelligence should just accept and acquiesce to any person in elected office merely because they attained that position. The USA is NOT a dictatorship. . . YET! Political dissension and activism is not whining. . . it is the foundation of our Democracy!

  21. YankeeExPat says:

    That’s Funny …….Uber Trump supporter (A.K.A Apologist), FOX’s own Ann Coulter has said for years that Women should NOT have the Right to Vote. ……… So I guess it’s time for you Ladies to put your shoes in the closet, (you won’t need them till Sunday), “Get to steppin” on Dinner, and practice putting your ankles behind your head.

  22. Layla says:

    Tulip, good words yourself.

  23. footballen says:

    Thanks for trying Colleen however; some people are too narrow minded and easily led astray to make any sense to just yet. We have to find a way to make the losing crowd realize that insulting the winning side and labeling them will not help in any way what so ever. It will only push them further and further away. I would dare say that if you accuse a people of a thing that is horrific and offensive in nature for long enough then some may actually become what you accuse them of. I am starting to think they may actually want that. I wish people could do what we have always done here in America, accept the results and forge on the best we can. The riots and beatings of people for voting in a manner they do not agree with is appalling, yet they point the finger at the other side and say they are justified.

  24. Terminus says:

    I hear the statement, “Trump won’t be bought by anyone,” a great deal. Think again. His previous and current business ventures are full of shady dealings and conflicts of interest. It’s called Google. Try it. He’s a billionaire and didn’t become one by following the rules and NOT being bought and paid for by special interest groups. Wake up. A businessman of Trump’s caliber IS a career politician.

  25. Linda Devlin says:

    Oh you American’. We Scots have a great poet the fabulous Rabbie Burns. You’ve probably heard of him. He said
    Oh wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see ourselves as others see us,
    It was frae mony a blunder free us.
    It means if only you had the power to you yourselves as others see you, it might prevent you form making mistakes.
    For the record, you don’t have the best education system in the world. We do!

  26. Pierre Tristam says:

    Very, very disappointed in Andy Dance and Trevor Tucker, not to mention Maria Barbosa: Conklin read the entirety of this column as a final statement as chairman at Tuesday morning’s meeting. It was an important statement to make. Janet McDonald echoed some of her sentiments by speaking of the importance of teaching the meaning of the Constitution in the context of civics classes, and that this is not a partisan issue. And the other three? They sat, mum, essentially signaling that they had nothing to say about one of the single-most important things to say right now: that diversity is not just a word but part of this district’s responsibility to foster and protect. But they were too fearful to so much as hint that agreeing even in part with their colleague would seem heretical to the R next to their name. Not impressive.

  27. Flagler Parent says:

    This is a joke, right? Why do we continue to listen to unqualified people ramble on about politics? What makes Colleen Conklin’s opinion the gold standard? She is a nobody! With the mess that the Flagler County schools are in, ie swastikas, naked employees running down Rt. 100, daily fist fights, etc,, she should spend her time fixing these issues and leave politics to the professionals!

  28. Edith Campins says:

    Not only has Trump not apologized for his offensive remarks, he named outspoken, racist, anti semite (in his own words) Bannon to be his “chief strategist”.

    I see the rise of Hitler’s Germany all over again. When I expressed this fear to a Trump supporter she answered with her version of what Germans were telling each other then, in this case it was why are you worried, you are not a Muslim. They told each other why worry you are not a Jew.

    She also said Palm Coast would be a nicer place to live if all the angry Hilary supporters would just move away. So much for unity and tolerance.

    Tahnk you for your words Ms. Conklin.

  29. Knightwatch says:

    Sorry, Coleen. You lost me forever. If you think that vile, obscene man if a fit role model for our schools, or in any way will benefit our public schools, you are not nearly the person I thought you were.

    I will work to defeat you and every other Republican next time around.

  30. The Ghost of America says:

    If you wanted Barbosa’s feelings on the matter you should have given her enough time to look something up to plagiarize tbh

  31. Colleen Conklin says:

    Knightwatch – did you read it the whole piece? For the love of God, I DID NOT VOTE FOR HIM! I am asking political leaders, locally and nationally, to own what has been said and be bold enough to not accept it, denounce it and expect more from the person who holds the highest office in the land. I am saying I was attracted to his vote for the reasons I mentioned but could never have supported him in the ballot box given what he has said. He doesn’t get a pass at least not from me. However, he IS our President NOW and I will support my country and hold my President accountable for the things he continues to say and do. I’m hoping he realizes that words do matter and what he publicly says or tweets matter. We are seeing the impact of those words in our schools here locally and across the country!

  32. B says:

    All would it have been better to give Hillary a pass for her lies,bad judgement,coverups, and criminal behavior? Would our children have been better off seeing someone who gets away with lying to the world and not being.held accountable? Give Trump a chance to get started for Pete’s sake. We will see in Jan.

  33. Heather says:

    This election has exposed scar tissue in our nation.

    We now have to grapple with how easy it is to be cruel on social media and the blurring between journalism and bloggers. We have to talk about the fact that voters are quick to give second chances to the powerful and yet the powerless (especially young people) live under zero tolerance. We have to figure out what to do about the increasing reality that only the rich can afford to run for office and the absolute reality that, once in office, personal wealth grows exponentially.

    There is so much in this new world that we have to figure out. If we don’t our children will be caught between two worlds and we will steam toward another bursting bubble.

    As I read these remarks, I wonder ….

    If Donnie Trump was a sophomore at FPC and he said “most Mexican’s are rapists” or “I just grab them by the…” about female students or he mocked a disabled student

    What action (if any) would the Principal of FPC be required to take according to district policy?

    I wonder that because a nation with rules for the “subjects” that do not apply to the powerful, can not stand.

  34. B says:

    He never said most Mexicans are rapists! You even put it “quotes”. If you want to be taken seriously, stop watching only CNN.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      The original quote: “When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

      He may not have said “most.” He didn’t have to, anymore than George Bush have to say what color Willie Horton was.

  35. Makeitso1701 says:

    yes, because we know how “fair and balanced ” Fox News is. Give me a break.

  36. Heather says:

    It’s in quotes because, in this hypothetical, a student was saying it.

    Your focus on the punctuation and assuming it was attributed to what DJT said on the campaign trail and subsequent attempt to malign my ability to decipher news for myself is such a fitting tribute to this election and such a stark example of how Americans treat each other today.

  37. footballen says:

    He won. Deal with it,

  38. Sherry says:

    @footballen et al . . . simply because a completely despicable person won enough Electoral College votes to become president does not mean that person will be even an adequate leader. It also doesn’t mean that intelligent,reasonable citizens should just roll back 60 years of progress towards equality for ALL and acquiesce to the outrageous stances of that person. Every leader should be held accountable for the words they say, and the actions they take. . . including those they choose to be part of their team. Steve Bannon is certainly a White Supremacist!

    Again. . . we are not a dictatorship. . . YET! Political activism and discourse is vital to any Democracy! I for one, am “dealing with it” by reminding everyone exactly what kind of horrific person YOU have allowed in the White House! Trump will NEVER be my president!

  39. B says:

    Common sense says all we can do now is wait and see what happens, I had to for the last eight years only to watch the failure of the do nothing pres BHO. Now, early indications point to a hard working pres. DJT.

  40. B says:

    I read the link and didn’t catch the white supremacist part. I did get that he is probably against globalism and centered on jobs and the middle class. Those of us that work hard for what we want rather than taking handouts. Globalism makes the USA weaker…

  41. Sherry says:

    @ B. . . BTW. . . you do know we all actually live on a globe. . . right? Refusing to realize that other ‘first world, highly civilized” countries exist and strongly influence ours, is as ridiculous as thinking that all our laws should vary state by state!

    The future of the planet IS GLOBAL. . .the internet has people of every color connected. . . and, there are many more people of color than white skinned. For those with half a brain, jobs ARE global and some of the best are in “other” countries. Thinking that American can create an island of all “white” people is nothing short of ludicrous! The belief that all “white” people are BETTER than people of color is not only racist, it is simply not accurate!

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