Some seek discussion, not criminal charges, after racial incident at Springfield school

SPRINGFIELD — The desire for community discussion was the dominant theme Thursday night at the Springfield City School District board of education meeting as tremors from a racial incident at a Springfield elementary school this month continue to reverberate.

“It is disconcerting and somewhat disheartening that an incident on a playground at an elementary school among children has achieved national focus due to the prevalence of social media and the contentious climate that exists in our society today,” school board Vice President Jamie Callan said.

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He made it clear that his words did not amount to a statement from the district or any other board member.

Callan was the only board member to comment on the Feb. 10 incident at Kenwood Elementary when, according to a Springfield police incident report, school staff told police “a group of black students had gathered several white students on a specific spot on the playground and forced them to say ‘Black Lives Matter’ against their will. Some of the white students, according to the incident report, were chased and escorted, dragged or carried to the playground. The report also states that one student was punched in the head.

“What the incident should provide is a teachable opportunity for discussion among the Springfield and Kenwood communities about respect for classmates and students each and every day,” Callan said.

“We should emphasize that no matter what you see on social media or the news, violence is never an acceptable method to convey your message or opinion,” he said.

Police Chief Allison Elliot has said the department is investigating and charges could be pursued.

And that is not sitting well with some, including Otis Williams, a Springfield resident who attended Thursday night’s school board meeting.

“I want the city, the community, to understand that these were kids, these weren’t adults,” Williams said to News Center 7′s Brandon Lewis. “They were playing.”

Williams, who said he is part of a group called the Peacekeepers, which works to focus children on education, wants the community to come together to talk about the incident and figure out a way to stop it so it doesn’t happen again.

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He strongly disagreed with the police department decision to pursue charges.

“Police should investigate it, but not carry it to extremes,” Williams said.

To try the children as adults would be the worst thing that could happen because of the repercussions that likely will ruin their lives, he said.

Marsha Crockran, who spoke during the meeting’s public comment period, said, “even though I don’t condone what [the children] did, it makes you see the inequities are being seen by the younger children.

“I know [police and the school district] are going to ensure they are held accountable, which they should be. Now, what about the adults that are in positions that should be held at a higher standard?”

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