PEMBROKE PARK — A local church has withdrawn its invitation to Broward County School Board member Ann Murray to participate in an education summit because of racial slurs she made about blacks.
Her offensive remarks came in 2007 when Murray was a supervisor of bus drivers in the school district’s transportation services department. She received a written reprimand for using racial slurs while making offensive comments about blacks.
Murray retired in 2008 and ran successfully for a School Board seat. Her comments came to light when New Times reporter Bob Norman posted it on his blog, The Daily Pulp.
School district personnel records show five employees reported Murray used a racial slur to describe a black fan who attended a football game. The five included three black bus drivers.
Those employees said Murray used the “N” word at least twice and other insulting terms about blacks while describing her experience at a Miami Dolphins football game.
When the employees objected, Murray insisted that nothing was wrong with her remarks.
Complaints were filed, leading to an investigation which confirmed her use of the slurs. Murray admitted making them but at the time did not apologize.
Koinonia Worship Center, a Pembroke Park-based church with a predominantly black congregation, is hosting an education summit this week to address the deteriorating performance of the Broward County School District.
The church has invited individuals and several agencies to participate, including the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Broward State Attorney’s Office, the Broward Public Defender’s Office and the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Along with Murray, fellow board member Robin Bartleman and schools superintendent Jim Notter were also scheduled to participate.
Murray had asked that she be allowed to participate in the conference, but she has been asked not to attend and she will comply with the request.
Murray did not return calls to South Florida Times but issued a prepared statement through the school district’s media relations department apologizing for using the slur.
The statement reads: “In 2007, I used a word I should have never used. Minutes after saying it, I apologized to my co-workers and subordinates. Eventually, I received a very strong reprimand from my supervisor. To this day, I have the deepest regret for the incident and the pain I may have caused others.
“I ask the African-American community and all communities who suffer with the ugliness of bigotry to accept my sincerest apology. I pray for healing and forgiveness from those I have offended as we move toward a new chapter and forever close the old.”
Church officials said they attempted to meet with Murray at her office this week, but she was not in and she did not respond to messages left with her staff prior to their decision to disinvite her.
“Her past behavior and conduct is totally unacceptable,” said the Rev. Mathis Guice, an elder and director of Koinonia’s Mens Ministry. “As a Christian, we have to accept her apology, but at this point she would be a distraction and we have taken her name off the list.”
Guice said church leaders wanted to hear from Murray directly before making the decision to scratch her from their program.
“By her not getting back to us, it shows she did feel the need to give clarity to the issue, and that's unfortunate,” Guice said. “The conference is about finding solutions that are critical to our youth’s futures and we don’t want anything or anyone to distract from that.”
Freda Stevens, vice president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Broward, has called for Murray’s resignation after reading reports about her offensive comments. Marsha Ellison, president of the Fort Lauderdale branch of the NAACP, said any apology would not be enough.
The education conference will be a community reaction to a scathing grand jury report that found serious deficiencies in the school district’s performance. It also found incompetence among administrators, rampant corruption and questioned Notter’s ability to lead the district.
Pastors also will seek an explanation of the district’s graduation rate for black males, which is the third worse in the nation.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Youth and Education Solutions Conference
WHEN: Wednesday, March 23 through Friday, March 24.
WHERE: Koinonia Worship Center, 4900 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd., Pembroke Park
CONTACT: 954-964-2901; firstname.lastname@example.org