School board member resigns after posts mocking NASCAR's Bubba Wallace

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Union County, N.C., Board of Education member Travis Kiker resigned Monday, after posting what the chairperson of the board chair called “insensitive” and “inappropriate” images on his personal Facebook page.

Melissa Merrell, chairperson of Union County Public Schools’ Board of Education, read Kiker’s statement of resignation at a press conference Monday. “It is with a heavy heart that I submit my immediate resignation from the Union County Board of Education,” Kiker wrote in an email to Merrel, “In light of recent events, I believe my continued service will serve as a distraction to our key priority.”

Kiker sent in his letter of resignation early Monday morning, after serving as an at-large board member since 2018. His term was set to expire in November 2022. Merrel said she learned of Kiker’s posts late last week, and spent the weekend consulting with fellow board members.

Prior to his resignation, school leaders received many calls from members of the community demanding Kiker be held accountable, Merrel said. Union County Public Schools parent Jermatic Chambers said she first contacted the Board of Education regarding Kiker’s posts.

Several posts mocked NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace. Earlier this month a garage pull rope tied into a noose was found in Wallace’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway.

When asked why action was not taken as soon as board members were made aware of the Facebook posts, Merrel said that she and her colleagues were preoccupied by Union County high school graduation ceremonies taking place last week.

Board members first viewed Kiker’s Facebook page Thursday morning, and were in agreement that his posts were unacceptable, Merrel said. “Each one of us determined that they were insensitive and inappropriate,” she said.

Kiker posted a statement on his personal Facebook page Monday, announcing his resignation and thanking his former colleagues. He also credits his faith for giving him strength to cope as he and his family receive threats and hateful messages from other community members.

“I stand here today convicted by my faith for any hurt that I may have caused to board members, community, but first and foremost my family and God,” he wrote on Facebook. “The attacks on my family and the hindrance to the school board going forward all led to my decision to resign,” he wrote.

In his statement Kiker also said that he would never treat any person differently “for any reason other than what that person has done as an individual.” He is praying for those who have sent him and his family hateful messages, he said. The Facebook post received many sympathetic and supportive comments.

In the wake of Kiker’s resignation, Merrel recommended an initiative to Union County Public Schools to form a Citizens Advisory Committee on Diversity, she announced in the press conference Monday.

The initiative was voted on and approved in a specially called Board of Education meeting following the press conference. The committee, which is still in its planning stages, will consist of students and other community members, and will aim to address issues of diversity, acceptance and tolerance for all.

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©2020 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)