Charter school principal returns after Facebook controversy

Parents create petition urging principal's removal

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Duval County charter school principal who was put on administrative leave after making controversial posts on Facebook returned to her office this week. 

In August, Duval Charter School in Baymeadows principal Kimberly Stidham shared lyrics to a Toby Keith song, “Beer for Horses,” which speaks of lynching. She also shared memes about Black Lives Matter and Martin Luther King, which parents with children attending the school complained were racist.

A mother, who asked not to be identified, contacted News4Jax after she saw comments she considered controversial on the Facebook page of her child's principal.

“I was disgusted. I was angry,” the mom said. “I was saddened to think that someone in a position such as she's in, a principal of a school, would have those type of views.”

Those posts, which were all shares and not original content, include statistics countering the Black Lives Matter movement, a question about whether a Martin Luther King Jr. statue should be taken down because he was against gay marriage, and a photo of President Donald Trump with the words: “I am sooo confused ... if Trump is the hate-mongering candidate, why aren't his supporters murdering cops and innocent people?”

“I'm just not comfortable with my son being there and knowing someone that could say those things in public,” the concerned mother said. “I'm curious of what she would say in private with my child or any other child.”

News4Jax sent the principal’s Facebook posts to Charter Schools USA, the parent company of the school, and a spokesperson said the principal was apologetic and didn’t intend to offend anyone.

The principal released a statement Thursday about the posts:

I am absolutely devastated that my personal political views were perceived to be racist in any way. I am a firm believer in equality, justice and respect for all individuals and I recognize now that some of my posts could have been misunderstood. I appreciate the fact that those who were offended brought this to my attention so that I could rectify the situation. I encourage anyone who has any concerns about this to come to me directly so that we can discuss it further.”

Some local parents said they thought principals and other school leaders and public figures should be allowed to voice their opinions freely on a personal Facebook page.

But the concerned mother disagreed.

The concerned mother later told us her concerns were addressed by the school, which also issued a statement Thursday:

(Our school) values all people regardless of their race, gender, religious or political views. While we do not restrict our employees from their right to free speech when operating privately, we do not condone any expressions that incite violence, racism or hate. While we are not at liberty to discuss any specific personnel matters, we can say that we conduct a thorough investigation and take all appropriate actions.”

After the news report, the school issued a message to parents informing them that the allegations were being reviewed and that the principal was on leave, pending the review's outcome.

A petition is being shared online calling for the principal’s removal from Duval Charter School.

The petition was created Sept. 11 and has over 40 signatures.

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