#Black Lives Matter not limited to library | RecordCourier.com

#Black Lives Matter not limited to library

Deputy Ignatius Kyeremeh speaks with Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Minden on Aug. 25, the same day the Douglas County Library Board of Trustees decided to conduct an investigation into a proposed diversity statement that included a sentence about the group. Kyeremeh served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 20 years, achieving the rank of gunnery sergeant, before joining the Sheriff’s Office in 2015.
Kurt Hildebrand

Even as scores of counter-protesters were preparing to descend on Minden in response to a proposed diversity statement that included the phrase #Black Lives Matter, the U.S. Department of Justice was awarding a $500,000 grant to a Minden organization with a similar statement on its web site.

Minden’s Rite of Passage was awarded $499,000 to provide housing to victims of human trafficking, according to an Aug. 4 announcement issued by U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich.

Rite of Passage’s anti-racism commitment states, “Rite of Passage values diversity, condemns racism and supports #Blacklivesmatter,” according to riteofpassage.com

The organization has been in Douglas County since the 1980s.

Last week, Douglas County Library trustees voted 3-2 to fund a $30,000 investigation into how a diversity statement came to be placed on their agenda.

Bonnie Rogers, who voted for the investigation, argued in favor of some sort of diversity statement during a discussion of librarian Amy Dodson’s review in September 2019.

“We need something in the evaluation that we have diversity as a goal; our library is not diverse,” according to the minutes for that meeting. “As a board we’d like the director to be inclusive and seek diversity as well as comply with county policy and all state and federal laws. Maybe a statement that we don’t favor one group over another.”

The item was part of a long-running discussion over the forms used to evaluate library Director Amy Dodson.

Deputy District Attorney Doug Ritchie replied that if the library board felt strongly about it they should add a diversity statement to the evaluation form.

The forms were approved in October after discussing them for several months and Dodson received a positive evaluation in November 2019.

Then the coronavirus outbreak hit and the March meeting was canceled, as were the May and June meetings.

In April, the library trustees met virtually to discuss the budget hit the library would receive due to the virus attack.

The diversity statement was originally on the library board’s une 23 agenda meeting, which was canceled.

It was posted to the library board’s social media on June 25, but was taken down at the advice of the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office.

It returned on the agenda for the July 25 meeting, which was canceled after a letter from Sheriff Dan Coverley went public that told the Library Board “not to bother calling the Sheriff’s Office,” if they approved it.

In the interim, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel issued a ruling that the phrase Black Lives Matter “is not inherently political activity.”

Relating the movement to the TEA Party, the office ruled that “phrases related to issues — even politically charged issues — generally do not meet the definition of political activity.”

The office recognized that Black Lives Matter is a sensitive issue.

“But BLM terminology is issue-based, not a campaign slogan,” the office concluded. “Therefore using BLM terminology, without more, is not political activity.”