Breaking News
More () »

Groups, community members call on Suffolk school board member to resign after controversial post

Calls for Suffolk School Board Member Sherri Story to resign are getting even louder. She is facing backlash after a controversial comment on Facebook last month.

SUFFOLK, Va. — Frustrated members of the community and civil rights activists described Suffolk School Board Member Sherri Story's now-deleted post on Facebook as racist and hurtful.

Story is facing growing pushback after sharing a Suffolk Parks & Recreation flyer with an event called "Black Joy in the Outdoors.”

Her February post on Facebook included a comment, saying "Well!!! Can't wait for WHITE JOY in the Outdoors!" followed by a facepalm emoji. 

"This post was disturbing," said LaTroy Brinkley, a speaker at Thursday night's school board meeting. "Your 'white joy' consisted of my ancestors being sold, lynched, working in conditions less than normal.”

Brinkley was among several speakers who directed their words at Story during the meeting, despite her absence from the stage.

Credit: Facebook/WVEC viewer

Story could not follow meeting protocol. She refused to put on a mask and told 13News Now she feels disenfranchised after saying her application for religious exemption was denied. 

However, in an email to 13News Now, the school board pointed out that the religious exemption was not denied. "Mrs. Story refused the accommodations that she was offered," a spokesperson wrote.

Story said those accommodations included the alternatives of wearing any face covering, such as a shield, or attending the meeting remotely. Those, of which, she opted not to do. 

While Story was not on the dais Thursday night, some had her and her Facebook remarks in mind.

“Social media can hurt people, educate people and/or show people for who they are," said Joan Turner. 

"The recommendation of the Nansemond-Suffolk Branch of the NAACP is that Mrs. Sherri Story will voluntarily step down from her position or be recalled," said Dr. Anita Lewis. 

Among those calling for Story’s resignation, representatives from others NAACP chapters, like in Hampton and Portsmouth.

Other groups -- including Best Kept Secret Stop the Violence, Black Voters Matter, Suffolk Democratic Committee, Suffolk Civic League, and civil rights advocates and clergy from the Suffolk Ministerial Alliance -- joined the calls.

"They’re exercising their First Amendment right and that’s fine with me," Story told 13News Now. 

In a phone call Thursday night, Story explained she did not intend harm and continued to defend her remarks.

“When a city produces something that looks to be for one color of skin only, whether it’d be white, Black, or brown, it does not draw people together," Story added. 

Despite the backlash, Story told 13News Now she is not going to resign.

Additionally, the Suffolk School Board stands by its previous statement issued on February 14, condemning Story's post.  

"Both the Suffolk City School Board and Suffolk Public Schools are aware of the inflammatory, and insensitive Facebook post made this past weekend by Board Member Sherri D. Story. 

Mrs. Story’s post suggests a lack of cultural awareness and sensitivity and perhaps implicit bias towards the African-American culture. Approximately 68 percent of the students in Suffolk Public Schools are children of color. We understand that diversity in our division exists, and work hard to build a unified and inclusive community. Promoting divisive messages only does a disservice to us all. 

Findings from a prior hostile work environment complaint filed against Mrs. Story by the school superintendent, concluded that the overwhelming “perception [was] that Representative Story behaves in a way that appears to be biased towards African-Americans, we recommend that Representative Story participate in racial sensitivity training. She has refused to take part in any such training. 

The Suffolk City School Board condemns this social media post by Mrs. Story with its racial overtones and lack of respect for people of color."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story indicated that Sherri Story's application for a religious exemption to the mask policy was denied. The Suffolk School Board refutes that, telling 13News Now it was not and that Story refused offered accommodations.

A Suffolk Public Schools spokesperson said that it was the school board, not the division, who provided an earlier statement condemning Story's Facebook post.

Before You Leave, Check This Out