A Vancouver Public Schools board member resigned Monday after he drew outrage for appearing to suggest police should spray fire hoses at people protesting the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans.
On Saturday, Mark Stoker, a board member since 2007, replied to a tweet concerned about property damage in Seattle by saying “Two words! Fire Hoses!”
The comments were slammed on social media over the weekend as invoking brutal police tactics during the Civil Rights movement. They also led the district’s top official to broadly condemn racism Monday morning.
“Racism in any form is wholly inconsistent with our mission, values and beliefs. It cannot be tolerated,” wrote Superintendent Steve Webb.
“As an adoptive father of a multiracial family, I know this,” Webb continued. “The feelings of pain and hurt felt by many people in our community are real. We must endeavor together to work toward creating a more just and humane world. The children of our school district and community deserve nothing less.”
Vancouver Public Schools has about 23,400 students, according to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Nearly half of them identify as people of color.
The Columbian reported Stoker apologized in an email Sunday afternoon. According to the newspaper, he said he intended his comments to be about extinguishing burning cars and buildings.
He submitted his resignation from the board Monday, according to district spokesperson Pat Nuzzo. It’s unclear if he resigned before or after Webb’s statement.
“I have determined that to continue to serve on this board would prove too big a distraction from the critical work needed to overcome the challenges created by these unprecedented times,” he wrote. “The focus must be solely on the work.”
Stoker had served on the board since his appointment in 2007. After winning re-election in 2017, his term expires in December 2021. The board will appoint a replacement.