Gwinnett County Board of Education Chairwoman Louise Radloff apologized Saturday for a controversial hot mic moment she had at the end of the school board’s meeting this past week.

Radloff could be heard on a still live microphone saying what appeared to be “I could strangle him” to Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks after the meeting adjourned Thursday night. The “him” Radloff referred to was fellow school board member Everton Blair, who is the only African American board member.

Radloff told the Daily Post on Saturday that it was wrong for her to make the remark.

“I was out of order and I have apologized to Mr. Blair,” Radloff said. “It was at the end of a very long meeting.”

The remark came after Blair stood against his fellow board members just before that at the end of the board meeting as his colleagues expressed support for having children return to school next month amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve been trying to respect the authority of our collective and recognize the complexity of this issue, and I cannot understand how we can lead in the number of cases in this state and chose not to do something else right now,” Blair told his colleagues.

In quick succession after Blair finished his remarks, Radloff asked if anyone had something to say and then adjourned the meeting. Board members then began to get up from their seats to leave, and Radloff began talking to Wilbanks while the microphones were still on and a live feed was still broadcasting over the internet.

That is when Radloff could be heard making the “strangle” remark to the superintendent, who was still sitting in his chair, as she leaned over next to him. Commenters on social media have claimed to have heard different variations on the phrasing of what was said, however.

Wilbank said in a statement on Friday that she was expressing frustration about “another board member” following disagreement on the board about the district’s decision to move forward with in-school instruction for families who wanted it. He did not specifically say that other board member was Blair.

Blair was the only dissenting voice on the back-to-school matter, however.

Wilbanks said he will “be working with the Board to address this type of behavior,” but did not elaborate on what could happen. Radloff, who was defeated in last month’s Democratic Party primary for her seat, is set to leave the school board when her term expires at the end of this year.

“In conducting board business, school board members do not always agree on the issues before them,” Wilbanks said. “However, there are appropriate ways to express that disagreement. At the end of last night’s meeting, which was one of the toughest in my tenure as superintendent, a Board member made a comment expressing her frustration with another Board member.

“It was a regrettable statement that caused pain and anger for many in our community. That is unacceptable and cannot be condoned.”

Radloff could not be reached for comment Friday morning.

Blair’s mother expressed outrage in comments on a Gwinnett STOPP Facebook video of the end of the board meeting.

“I’m proud of my son for advocating for the children, parents and staff of GCPS,” Fiona Blair said in her Facebook comment. “I am appalled that the chairwoman said, ‘I could strangle him.’ Having already experienced the horrific nightmare of having to bury one of my four children, this stabbed me right in my heart, and I took this threat personally. That was absolutely despicable, Louise Radloff!”

The Gwinnett African American Caucus also spoke out against Radloff’s remark and offered its support for Blair and his stance on starting the school year totally online instead of a mixture of online and in-person instruction.

“The GAAC strongly objects to Radloff’s comment and demands that Member Blair be treated with respect and courtesy by the members of the Board and school district personnel,” the caucus said.

In a statement released after the meeting, Blair compared Radloff’s comments to lynchings of African-Americans. He also continued to assert his opposition to having children return to school for in-person instruction this fall.

“Unfortunately, (Thursday night’s) critical business regarding school reopening has been overshadowed by the remarks of my outgoing colleague, which ignore the permanent stain of lynching in Gwinnett County’s history,” Blair said. “But let me be clear: this is not about me. This is about the health and wellness of our 180,000 students, our 22,000 staff members and the families to which they belong.

“What we experienced at (the) school board meeting was a mockery of the dual crises at hand: a global pandemic and a looming economic recession.”

Wilbanks called the remark “inappropriate” in his statement on Friday, but also offered somewhat of a defense for Radloff.

“The comment, while inappropriate, does not reflect the heart of the Louise Radloff I have known for almost 40 years,” Wilbanks said. “Her actions over several decades are a more accurate reflection of who she is.

“She is a good person and a public servant who has dedicated her life to serving others, and has supported the most diverse clusters in our district during her 48 years on the Board.”

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

(52) comments

John tuttle

Wilbanks is 83. When two more BOE members are defeated in November (Boyce and Murphy), Wilbanks will be in the minority. He'll be forced to retire or be fired when is latest "contract" expires.

MissDaisy

Non renewal of a contract is not being fired. The only thing that has kept this school system recognized nationally as a quality system is Alvin Wilbanks and members such as Louise Ratliff. You are right that the Board will turn after the first of the year, since the challengers are running as a "D." Not because they have any relevant qualifications; such as Mr. Blair. This schools system will go down the tubes like Clayton County did a few years ago; loosing their accreditation. The same selfish, petty egotist having their few seconds of fame. A pathetic shame.

Magic7

You didn't need to apologize Mrs. Radloff. Blair and his mama are cry babies that throw the race card around at any little thing. Blair and mama need to get over it and grow up!

Robo40

So some politician gets caught saying something they shouldn't had said out loud but likely often think about. By the way, just because this one got caught don't believe she is alone. Most politicians harbour these thoughts. It's not a race thing or a gender thing. It's the loss of civility brought about by both political parties. Most of the trolls commenting on here about how there needs to be changes are the same people who likely do little to change anything, never considered running for office, and probably don't vote or rarely vote.

Questtofind

This school board and the Superintendent are an embarrassment. Why in the world do we have a 90 year old board member and an 80 year old Superintendent? Way past time for a change in this county! Fools!

John tuttle

Correction. Radloff is 91. Wilbanks is 83. When two more BOE members are defeated in November (Boyce and Murphy), Wilbanks will be in the minority. He'll be forced to retire or be fired when is latest "contract" expires.

getoverit

“I am appalled that the chairwoman said, ‘I could strangle him.’ Having already experienced the horrific nightmare of having to bury one of my four children" OMG are you freaking serious.......get over yourself lady!!!!!!!!! Look what we have created and accepted as okay behavior. "Oh I feared for my baby"..geez oh man. This race card HAS GOT TO STOP. Ridiculous that a person can't say anything anymore to anyone........

Globeheater

Or even to someone else..... 🙂

John tuttle

Hey hey hi ho it's time for ratloff she gotta go

lionfromzion

It is sad to see these people who want to throw the race card into every situation. Your approach does nothing but pull people further apart.

My guess is that the majority of you do not know Mrs. Radloff or do not know what she has stood for during her entire tenure as a board member for Gwinnett County public schools. There has been no one who has championed the cause of supporting, not just minority students and commity members, but those that fall under the low socio-economic classification. Those include families that are homeless, living in extended living hotels, have immigration issues and any other designation that you want to include in this setting.

The final thing I will say is that Mr. Blair know who Mrs. Radloff is and what she stands for. He should be ashamed of himself for using this situation as a polical tool to further his divisive agenda.

Globeheater

Well said. A quick look at Everton Blair’s Twitter account, and other social media sites, will tell you exactly what he is all about. I expect that the divisiveness and disruption is just beginning. He ranks high on the victimhood scale and anyone who disagrees with him will be labeled a unsympathetic racist. Everton has his social justice pulpit now and it’s unfortunate that Mrs. Radloff had to be his first victim and that the school board will have to tolerate his politics. If she was black, what she said would have been ignored.... it still should be.

happy2chee

"These people"? "Divisive agenda?" Perhaps people are responding because they DO know her. It's easy for her to come off as a "white savior" to poor minority students. She's a politician. Her tone was inappropriate, period. She has been in the position longer than the others so it is SHE who should who should be ashamed.

Globeheater

It’s also easy for Everton to come off as a “black victim”. Much easier when he takes a common phrase, which was not even spoke to him, and does his best to make it racial . It’s always racial, even when it’s not...... He’s a politician.

mikeajeff

It's sad to see you people continuing to deflect the subject at hand. Did she apologize for nothing? I could only imagine your comments if this man had spoke about strangling this woman. "doesn't he know that ALL LIVES MATTER?"-lionfromzion

Does race ever play a role in your mind? She should be ashamed of herself for using language like this. You're so obvious with yours...........

DR

I'm pretty sure that everyone on here dismissing this as no big deal has one thing in common... they aren't part of a racial minority. I guarantee you they would be offended if it was the other way around and he would have said it to her.

This has nothing to do with the physical threat of one person strangling another.

This is about Ms. Radloff's clear belief that her opinion is more important than her colleague's. She feels that either due to her age, experience, or race that she is "entitled" (a word that conservatives love) to be the dominant voice and that the new guy needs to "stay in his lane".

Mr Blair has handled this much better than i would have so kudos to him. I would have told her to fly a kite.

You can thank her for her service on the way out the door.

Stranger

Give it a rest. I could strangle my kids sometimes....it's a phrase. Ms. Radloff's opinions are absolutely based on more experience than a new board member not putting the student's education first (or the parents). Someone who has devoted -years- of time with no real compensation....yea compare that. Yes you would have said something, forgetting it was Mr. Blair who was rude and not following procedure. But in today's world that's ok - just scream it loud and it makes it true.

DR

I know what you mean. Kinda like if you just ignore the virus enough, it'll just go away

DR

I also find it interesting that you pointed out it's a "phrase" that you say to your kids.

You're right!

It's a "phrase" that someone in a position of authority says to to an inferior. It's comparable to slave mentality.

They are EQUALS, whether you like it or not. The only thing superior about her is her age.

You can call Blair inexperienced. I think Radloff is out of touch.

Regardless, she's done enough sacrificing for others over the years. It's time she just takes care of herself and moves on to bigger and better things.

happy2chee

Let's look at it this way. If Blair had been Jewish and she had said "I could exterminate him", her comments would have been perceived as Anti-semitic and she would have been asked to resign, no questions asked. In this racial climate, it is not acceptable for a southern white women of her age to say what she said to a Black man. He has a right to feel how he feels and you have not right to police how he feels.

Radloff gets all kinds of perks for her position. If not, she would not have clung to it for half a century.

Globeheater

I’m not a minority but to me it is simply embarrassing to have a Harvard/Stanford educated adult, such as Everton, react as he did to comment from a peer. He’s acting like a school girl who got her feelings hurt.. He’s a grown man, serves on the school board and is torn up over an innocent comment. I honestly feel sorry for anyone who goes thru life being that sensitive. He has a lot of suffering ahead of him if that statement offended him as much as he describes..... He needs to get off his social justice soapbox, quit obsessing with his skin color and everyone else’s, and focus on serving the school system rather than his own liberal agenda.

MissDaisy

Maybe a little demographic research would shed some light on the issue. Gwinnett is a majority minority county; there is not majority race in Gwinnett. Sorta pokes a hole in that argument. I have known Louise for 40 years; we seldom agreed politically since she is very liberal. She has done more for children in this school system than anyone, ever. Mr. Blair is pompous and arrogant. He cares more about his own, narrow politics than our children. His lack of real world experience and narrow academic credentials sure is telling.

Stranger

You have a top schools system, run with generally great teachers and committed boards. Then you have this joker sneak into an election (anyone else run?) and immediately become a problem. Rude, unprofessional and NO experience.

Sure let's just shut it all down. Forget all the single mom's that need to work. Forget the lower income families that can't keep kids at home. Forget those that rely on food from schools. Forget all the special needs families that NEED the school help. Forget the kids that WILL NOT get the same learning at home. Forget those kids that need to be in school instead of running around. Forget that the number of kids that have died with the virus is under 20 IN THE NATION. Like so many new liberals the facts have little place in these discussions. Claim to care about those kids and then work hard to limit them.

DR

They may not die, but they can pass it on to others who can die. You already knew that, though, because conservatives have a monopoly on facts.

natecollins999

Did you forget about teachers who are forced to work who are above 60 and who are dealing with health problems and cannot afford to get sick? Or the parents who could get this virus by contracting it from their own children and die leaving their kids without a parent? Antibodies and antivirals are around the corner with a possible chance at a vaccine. Gwinnett is surging in cases because people around here aren't taking it seriously and choose not to wear masks. Just because you're in a position of privilege does not mean you get to project that on to others. This is a global pandemic and we are all making sacrifices. Carrying on like nothing happened will only make the problem worse. Yes, the problems you address are legitimate, but none of them are greater than people losing their lives which is irreversible.

MissDaisy

Hang in there Louise. Mr. Blair is my school board representative and is very pompous and egotistical. He has no real world experience and is trying to use a great school system as a social experiment. He is out of touch with us constituents and doesn't care; from getting rid of the school resource officers to "confiscating" funds from he Gwinnett Schools Foundation. Heaven help the Gwinnett school children when more of his ilk take over. Time to move?

DR

Yes

happy2chee

Miss Daisy, yes, I agree! It is time for you to move. Long gone are the days that people who look like Mr. Blair drive you around. Please move to Forsyth.

Questtofind

It is not all about race. This is about an inappropriate comment that could have been totally avoided by a direct conversation between two adults, period.

jimbo1185

it could have been avoided if mr. blair had spoke up when the board met in private prior to the public meeting instead of waiting until then to torpedo all of his fellow board members with a blindsided shot of disagreement with the majority board opinion. it was a cheap and unprofessional tactic.

Tater

Comparing a little old lady using a figure of speech against you to lynching is really jumping the victimhood shark You need to grow up and grow a pair, Mr. Blair.

lionfromzion

Mrs. Radloff has done more for diversity then all of you put together will do in 10 lifetimes. Mrs. Radloff not only represents the Meadowcreek cluster, the most diverse cluster in the county, she also lives in the cluster. She has spent her entire career fighting for the rights of not just minority students but parents in the community as well. For years she has worked with Latino parents on the weekend to help them improve their English Language skills and pays for it out of her own pocket. Mrs. Radloff even broke her neck trying to unload boxes for community members off a loading dock but was insistant that she attend the next board meeting virtually from her hospital bed.

All of you should be ashamed of yourselves for attacking someone who has given so much to the Gwinnett school system - especially to those in need and needed a voice.

Mr. Blair you know who Mrs. Radloff is - that was a shamful "political" statement where you are trying to use this unforunate circumstance as political leverage.

You all can do better than this!!!!

Globeheater

I expect this is only the beginning of the disruption. Everton is all about politics, race, and himself. A quick look at his twitter and other social media accounts will show you. The school board serves as his podium and his race protects him.....

MarvinGardens

It was an imprudent statement she made about a colleague, to the superintendent who is technically her subordinate, hot mic or not. But, like you, I highly doubt she meant anything racial by it, based on her overall character. And whether she should continue on the school board is a mostly moot point. She's got one foot out the door, and this is just one slip-up. She's been publicly shamed already. So yes, I think it's time to stop making a big deal about this.

Globeheater

Everybody is just looking for a way to be offended these days.....

Globeheater

Good gawd..... People just need to get a grip. She was expressing frustration with him, not threatening to kill him. If he was white this would probably not even be mentioned. Is is seriously worth all this effort to try and make her comment into something it’s not?

jimbo1185

OMG! so threatening... i know a little, old lady in her 90's saying this about me would just scare the daylights out of me - quick get my smelling salts!!! get real folk, stop being offended so easily - there' a huge difference between something said sarcastically and an actual threat. this woman has a long record of great service to the county schools... longer than mr. blair has been alive.

DR

The obvious observation, which i haven't heard anyone else point out, would be to imagine if it would have been the other way around and Mr. Blair would have said the same thing about Ms. Radloff? I wonder if Jimbo would be so flippant and dismissive about it then. Shouldn't we react the same way? Or are you advocating a double-standard?

I don't think anyone reading this, nor Mr. Blair, is actually worried about him being strangled by an elderly woman, but it shows just how tone deaf to the current climate someone who is in a position of power is.

40+ years in the same exact position is as sad as it is something to be proud of.

She shouldn't wait till the end of the year.

She should just go away now.

Questtofind

Good points!

jimbo1185

and how do we know he hasn't said this, or worse, about her and just has been lucky enough to not to get caught on a hot mic? please try and convince me you've never dismissively said something out of line of this nature, i think everyone has at one time or another.

happy2chee

I agree. She's bad for optics. This is exactly why the district needs that implicit bias training. All of those elderly white people working in the district say all kinds of problematic things to minority students and they work in minority schools. I have volunteered and I have heard them say things that made my skin crawl.

Questtofind

Case and point-“old lady in her 90’s” has no business being a leader on the school board!

jimbo1185

perhaps 33 yr. olds with little real world experience are a better choice in your opinion and their only connection to gwinnett schools being the fact that they graduated from one. try checking out his ties to the community... including what his address really is - i didn't realize stone mountain residents could sit on the gwinnett school board!

gtg859r

jimbo1185, parts of Stone Mountain are in Gwinnett, which you would know if you lived in Mr. Blair’s district. Also, Radloff was 37 when she joined the school board and would have had a similar lack of “real world experience”

happy2chee

I agree.

natecollins999

Despicable. These are the people who run the Board of Education in Gwinnett. No wonder they want to open the schools. They don't care about anyone unless it hurts them. She needs to resign. Actually, the whole board needs to resign for trying to force teachers and staff to go back to school during a global pandemic when cases are rising. How can we have these uneducated people sitting on the board of education?

jimbo1185

uneducated? mrs. radloff was a respected teacher for many years prior to being a member of the board - she did her level best to make sure hundreds of children weren't 'uneducated' when they left her classroom. there are buildings in the district named for both her and her husband.

Questtofind

This is a matter of her showing her lack of integrity. She didn’t know anyone was listening yet she spoke her true feelings, to Mr. Wilbanks, who laughed. If she had a problem with Mr. Blair, why did she (with all her glorified experience) not have a conversation with HIM? How backwards can you be????

Jim Taylor

Strangle another black man in 2020? Really? The lack of cultural competence on display last night was stunning. But don't be surprised; I'm not. On 4-16-15, the board rejected recommendations from staff to have system-wide training in cultural awareness and cultural competence. They didn't think it was necessary. Read the article yourself. https://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/archive/gwinnett-county-schools-seeks-to-develop-cultural-competency-inclusiveness/article_219b9478-262f-5620-b78a-f2aac73d0cf6.html

jimbo1185

thank goodness she didn't say, 'plow him down with my car', of mr. blair would have had the police in the parking lot for his protection! poor, fragile, little man. i guess if he turns up strangled in the next few days the police will have take swabs of samples from his neck to submit to the forensic lab to determine if they find minute amounts of arthritis joint pain cream so they can clear mrs. radloff of claims that she carried out her perceived threat...

Questtofind

Wow, this comment is senseless and unnecessary.

Globeheater

It would not matter what she said Everton would immediately make it racially motivated. She made a comment which we have all heard a million times and it took him no time at all to compare her comment to “lynching”. I feel sorry for people who have to work in such a politically correct environment where every comment is viewed as racial....

Globeheater

It’s all about race isn’t it?

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