An Abington school board member is apologizing for her comments on police-involved shootings and minority students.
The controversy began during an Abington School Board meeting back on Jan. 21 in which the members discussed district-employed police officers. The discussion later turned to whether or not police officers should be allowed to carry guns in school.
“I mean, this might not be the appropriate venue or time to talk about this but there’s a lot of evidence that anybody carrying a firearm in a district building puts kids at risk, particularly students of color,” Dr. Tamar Klaiman, an Abington school board member, said.
“We know that black and brown students are much more likely to be shot by police officers, especially school resource officers, than other students and I have serious concerns about anybody in the buildings having firearms, regardless of whether or not they’re police.”
Dr. Klaiman made a second comment on police shootings later on during the meeting.
“Police officers also shoot people pretty regularly,” she said.
Klaiman’s comments quickly sparked controversy and calls for her resignation. She later apologized in a statement on Jan. 24.
“I am concerned about having firearms in schools, and the disparate impact of disciplinary actions on students of color,” she wrote. ”However, I said something that I deeply regret, and I would like to apologize. I am proud of the relationship between ASD and the police department in this community. I am also aware that Abington is a leader in community policing and building bridges. What I said was offensive, and I am sorry.”
On Jan. 28, the National Fraternal Order of Police condemned her initial comments, calling them, “the most inappropriate and inflammatory statement by a school board member we have seen.”
“Those who push these false narratives are proactively working to destroy the positive relationships we are building with our communities for no reason other than to satisfy an agenda,” they wrote. “An officer who would stand between a gunman and someone's child in school deserves more respect than this board member is willing to give!”
Klaiman's comments were discussed during Tuesday's school board meeting at Abington Senior High School.
Hundreds of people, including Abington Police officers, school resource officers and Valerie Ward, the President of the Willow Grove NAACP, were in attendance.
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“I just hope the community will become more aware, educated about what is going on, what the relationship has been and what the relationship will continue to be,” Ward said.
During the meeting, Klaiman directly apologized to Abington Police for her comments.
“I apologize to police and their families who were hurt by my comments,” she said. “I know officers and their families put their lives at risk for the safety of the community, every day.”
Abington Police Chief Patrick Molloy said he accepted Klaiman’s apology and is ready to move toward healing and bringing the community together.
“We can’t unring the bell,” Chief Molloy said. “This really tore our community apart. But we need to forgive people and come together.”