Christie New Craig, chair of the Chesapeake School Board and the chief of staff to state Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr. (R-Chesapeake), told The Virginian-Pilot that she did not mean to offend anyone when she shared the cartoon on Aug. 4.
School board members did not address the issue at a meeting Monday night. Craig, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post on Thursday, told The Virginian-Pilot that she did not share the post “maliciously.”
“I’m not racist,” Craig told the Virginian-Pilot. “I wasn’t raised that way.”
The City of Chesapeake School Board and Public Schools released this statement Thursday afternoon:
The School Board of the City of Chesapeake and the Chesapeake Public Schools comprise an equal employment and educational opportunity school system. Together, the Board and its administrative staff strive to treat all employees and our students, parents and community members with the highest degree of respect. In doing so, the school system adheres to the principles of equal opportunity in employment and student achievement for every person working in and attending our schools. We therefore prohibit any form of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, color, religion, age, genetic information or disability.A recent social media post has resulted in some concern voiced by an advocacy group indicating its representation of a segment of the community. This post has had no effect on our commitment to maintaining equal opportunity and non-discrimination standards. The School Board welcomes and will consider communications from any person or organization with an interest in maintaining and/or improving the highest possible system of K-12 public education.
The controversy over Craig’s post came the same week that a 9th grader named Ahmed Mohamed, who is Muslim, was arrested in Irving, Texas after bringing a home-built clock to school, with police accusing him of building a hoax bomb. The incident stoked widespread accusations of racism and Islamophobia and drew responses from President Barack Obama, who invited the teen to the White House, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the incidents in Chesapeake and Irving speak to a growing tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. that has extended to public schools. He called the cartoon bigoted and inaccurate, pointing out, for example, that Muslims regard Jesus as a prophet and speak of him with reverence. Worse, he said, it “reinforces this notion that the Muslim community is a foreign implant.”
“We’re not foreign to America. We’re Americans. We’re productive citizens here,” Hooper told The Washington Post. “We’re Americans just like anybody else.”
Hooper’s organization has called for Craig to apologize, but has not spoken to anyone in the district despite reaching out by phone and e-mail to school board members and the school system’s superintendent. He also is calling for “some kind of action to ensure that these kind of bigoted views are not translated into policies that impact Muslim students in the district.”