01 Oct Free Speech Comes With Great Responsibility
In recent months, there have been articles and a book, in particular, that have reminded us of Forsyth’s historical reputation of severe racial division, while questioning how far we have come as a county. While Forsyth is not perfect, I believe in the people of this county, and our authentic desire to create communities, schools, and workplaces that reflect the best of what America has to offer.
Recently, I was made aware of racist comments made by Jane Wood Allen, a paraprofessional at Chestatee Elementary School here in Forsyth County, Georgia, and while I unequivocally support the right to free speech, I also believe in choosing to exercise that right responsibly and respectfully. Not only did she make Facebook posts about First Lady Michelle Obama likening her to a “gorilla,” other posts she published contained anti-Hispanic and anti-Muslim sentiments, according to screen-captures and school officials; tolerating this type of rhetoric causes our collective character to be in question. That said, Forsyth County Schools must take action by making it clear that, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from its consequences.
Forsyth County Schools is home to an increasingly diverse population of over 46,000 students in 37 schools, and many of our schools are recognized across the state & nation as leaders in public education. Leaders set standards, and these comments made by Jane Wood Allen do not represent what is best in Forsyth County Schools. Our teachers have worked hard to earn a reputation for being the best in their profession, and our parents and students deserve better. We should be focusing on the fact that Forsyth County Schools continue to have the highest SAT scores in Metro-Atlanta, as well as the top score in Georgia for districts that tested over 410 students, and that all traditional Forsyth County high school results were higher than the state averages. Our performance is what makes other counties admire Forsyth County Schools, and as we continue to grow, we must be willing to address issues that threaten the integrity of our communities and schools.