District 91 school board president Kyra Tyler | File photo

At the District 91 meeting on June 11, held via Zoom, Superintendent Lou Cavallo took a knee during the pledge of allegiance.

Later, he spoke about his decision to do so.

“I did not take a knee to disparage the flag or the symbol of freedom that it represents,” said Cavallo. “I did not take a knee to disrespect those that fought under this flag for that freedom. I didn’t take a knee because I do not value the ideals expressed in that pledge.”

Rather, he said, he holds in high esteem the idea of liberty and justice for all.

“I took a knee to show solidarity for those who live under the same flag but are not afforded the same freedoms that I as a white American am afforded,” said Cavallo.

Cavallo said he understood that there would be people who would look at his gesture as being against solidarity.

“We must stop looking at standing up for liberty and justice for all as being against anything but inequality, injustice, and denial of liberty,” Cavallo said. “We must be indivisible in our resolve to reach these ideals for all in this country.”

“To my black students, their families and my colleagues; I want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the systemic racism that pervades our society. I’m sorry for the oppression of people of color by whites that is centuries old and still exists today. I’m sorry for yet more deaths of black people because we have failed to recognize and address the systemic racism and oppression in any meaningful way.”

He added: “I don’t think any of us white people say we’re sorry enough.”

He pleaded with white families and colleagues to “do better.”

“We must recognize our own bias and the bias that exists and work to change it. We can no longer deny it. We can no longer make excuses. We can no longer shift blame and hide in our comfort zones. We must call it out, address it and demand from one another the necessary change. I will speak out, and I will denounce it, as loudly and firmly as I can, and I expect the same from you.”

Board president Kyra Tyler expressed her thoughts as well.

“I have been overwhelmed with the events of the past few weeks set in motion by the brutal murder of George Floyd,” said Tyler. “He was yet another figure in an unjust disgusting epic saga, the final straw in a long line of people before him.”

She went on to express her feelings about being a black woman making a difference in the community.

“To be a black person trying to live a meaningful life in the world has taken on new meaning,” said Tyler. “Suddenly, everyone wants to talk about what has been our problem for so long. That is overwhelming, frustrating, exhausting but also holds a glimmer of hope. That’s where I stand right now in this moment. A little hopeful, simply because I have been let down before.”

She added the following: “What I hope for is that our community and even more so our school district will remain laser focused on these ideals. That black lives matter… And that when the peaceful protests wane, our community will continue to support these ideas.”