Tensions were running high at a Virginia school board meeting this week as concerned parents and community members confronted administrators about their lack of response to violent racist threats made against Black students.

With the district accused of downplaying the seriousness of the death threats and giving minimal punishment to the white students responsible, the community reached a boiling point, demanding accountability.

Black Panthers Attend Board Meeting to Confront Racism

At the meeting, the Black Panthers made their presence known, arriving in full regalia to support the students and parents calling for action.


According to witnesses, the Panthers did not speak during the public comment portion of the meeting but instead stood silently along the walls of the room, their arms crossed.

The Incident that Started it All

In February, a disturbing photo surfaced of a white Powhatan High School student with “I KILL N….R” scrawled on their arm.

Source: Wikipedia

However, the student only received a three-day suspension for what many considered an overt death threat.

Community Outrage and Demands for Action

The lenient punishment enraged the local community and highlighted the racist bullying culture that had long pervaded the school district.

Source: Creative Commons

At a March school board meeting, over 50 people spoke during a heated three-hour public comment session.

Complaints of Racism from Middle Schoolers

Black middle schooler Yasmine Smith said she had faced racism from classmates since moving to Powhatan.

Source: Flickr/Joh Englart

“Kids have said the N-word right to my face. I feel as if I can’t report anything because y’all will keep it on the low, give it little investigation and consequences.”

District Response and Next Steps

After initial silence, Superintendent Beth Teigen sent an email to families vowing “hateful speech and actions will not be tolerated. Period.”

Source: The Blue Diamond Gallery

The district has planned follow-up meetings to address concerns and discuss the next steps.

Little Action and Slow Reponses Frustrates the Community

While the school board’s slow response frustrated the community, the outpouring of support at the meeting shows the district now has an opportunity to make real changes.

Source: Flickr/Gary Knight

With the nation focused on racial equity more than ever, Powhatan schools must work to stamp out racism and make all students feel safe and included.

Speakers Decry Racism and Violent Threats in Schools

Speakers made it clear that vague assurances and minor policy changes will not be enough. The community expects to see concrete action to address racism and make students feel safe.

Source: Flickr/Fibonacci Blue

For a district with a long history of failing to properly handle these issues, rebuilding trust will require transparency, accountability, and a commitment to change.

Fire Marshal Interrupts Rescheduled Board Meeting

The fire marshal interrupted the rescheduled school board meeting, saying there were too many people in attendance.

Source: Pexels/Matthias Fischer

The overflow crowd had turned out to voice their anger at the administration for failing to properly address racist threats at Powhatan High School.

Parents Describe Ongoing Racist Bullying of Children

Rick Cole, a former school board member, acknowledged the district’s racial issues extend beyond the schools into the wider community.

Source: Pexels/Mikhail Nilov

“We’ve failed to acknowledge that our school system reflects our community. This is not just a school problem; this is a county problem. This is a societal problem. This is a Virginia problem. This is a United States problem,” Cole said.

“Do Your Job

Several speakers demanded the school board “do their job” to address racism. Student Ava Smith said she has asked to be homeschooled to avoid “racially motivated jokes and comments,” but “I now have to take the time out of my day to ask adults to do their job.”

Source: LinkedIn

Justin Frye, a black father, said, “Until you look like me and get dressed in the morning like me, wake up and wash your face and see that you’re Black…how you gotta move in public is different…you’re not going to understand.”

Original Black Panthers Condemn Threat as Terrorism

The appearance of the Original Black Panther Party at the meeting brought an ominous warning to the school board. According to Mike Payne, the general of the Black Panther Party, the recent threat against two black students was an act of terrorism meant to instill fear.

Source: LaToya Dennis

“This threat was to kill,” Payne said. “When will you realize you have a gigantic racial problem in your school and community?… Those that don’t see it don’t want to see it.”

NAACP Absent From Heated Meeting

The local chapter of the NAACP was noticeably absent from the heated school board meeting. Its absence did not go unnoticed by attendees.

Source: Wikipedia

Many questioned why the civil rights organization did not have a presence during such an important community discussion on racial issues. Some speculated the NAACP may have opted out of attending to avoid associating itself with more radical groups present at the meeting, like the Original Black Panther Party.

Administration Yet to Comment on Racial Incidents

The Powhatan school board meeting brought anger and frustration from parents, students, and community members over the district’s failure to address ongoing racial incidents.

Source: Powhatan school

The administration has yet to issue an official statement on the matter. Ending racist bullying and discrimination will require commitment and follow-through from administrators, teachers, parents, and students.

Racism in Powhatan County Is a Serious Issue

The fiery school board meeting made it clear that racism remains a serious issue in Powhatan County and its schools.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Community members, young and old, shared painful stories of racist bullying and demanded action from the all-white school board. While no easy solutions present themselves, it’s evident that change is needed to address these problems head-on.