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Rootstown School Board Plans Diversity Committee to Address Racism Following Football Incident

a photo of Rootstown school board
At its meeting Monday night, Rootstown Board of Education accepted the resignation of two members following a controversy over a football player accused of using racial slurs against a teammate.

Tensions were high as Rootstown community members gathered Monday night at the board of education meeting to voice their concerns about the handling of accusations that a football player used racial slurs against another player.

Andrew Hawkins, superintendent of Rootstown Local Schools, met with Portage County NAACP and hopes these further conversations will help better the community and students.

“Our main thing is about the students and how they’re feeling and how they’re affected by it,” Hawkins said. “All of us together, students, staff in the district, community members, let’s work together and have this group of conversations and create that change.”

Longtime Rootstown community member Robert Miller voiced his frustration over what he called the administration's lack of integrity.

“Everyone is entitled to make mistakes, but no one is entitled to take advantage of the position that they sit in as an elected official and make decisions for the betterment of themselves and their friends,” Miller said. “That’s called cronyism. That’s not called leadership.”

These frustrations come after the resignations of board members Scott Krieger and Steve Vasbinder, which were approved at the meeting.

“Neither Mr. Krieger nor Mr. Vasbinder gave written reasons for the resignation, and it’s not our job to speculate,” Rootstown Board of Education President Amanda Waesch said. “And I personally will not speculate or answer on their behalf.”

The board announced plans to form a community committee focused on addressing issues related to this incident.  “The resignations do not affect our decision to continue with the formation of a community committee focused on diversity and inclusion and cultural awareness," Waesch said.

Friends of Hawkins, like Colete Hunter, defended his handling of the decision to reinstate the player accused of using the slurs.  

“I’ve been around racist people my whole life,” Hunter said. “Mr. Hawkins has never been a racist person…”

There will be a meeting open to the public at 6 p.m. on Tuesday with the local NAACP chapter to discuss how Rootstown as a community can learn and move forward.