SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - South Orange Maplewood School Board Member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, who drew international attention following an altercation with a South Orange police officer in which she used profanity and called the police chief a “skinhead cop,” made clear during a recent school board meeting that she has no plans to step down.
After apologizing for her comments to South Orange police officer Shaun Horst at a traffic stop, which also included remarks about contacting South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, Lawson-Muhammad said she made such statements “out of the stress of the moment.”
See her entire statement at the May 21 school board meeting below.
I want to sincerely apologize that my uncharacteristic behavior displayed in the police video from April 27th has alarmed some of the residents in the district and community that I love. I made those statements out of the stress of the moment. I did not make those statements to attain a privilege. I ran for the board of ed four years ago to make a difference in this community. The work I’ve done alongside my fellow board members over these last four years is vast and our evolution to focus on common goals and develop the resolve to yield results has been astounding. We are on the edge of moving the big rocks that have cluttered the path for so long.
Many have reached out to offer support and encouragement during this time and for that I am truly thankful. I want to reiterate how earnest I am about working with Chief Kroll, a commitment we made together coming out of our restorative meeting - to help heal our community. We have begun plans to work with community stakeholders to build stronger bonds and greater trust for the entire community with the goal of kicking off this work the first week of June.
The Community Coalition on Race and Reverend Terry Richardson have provided overwhelming support in helping us get to this point. I am blessed to live in a community with those that are committed to this work and willing to give of themselves in times like this.
I stand committed more than ever to continue in my role as a champion for equity, the voice for the voiceless, and a believer that we can do the hard work necessary to make this the district our children deserve.
We win by showing that we will not allow our community to be torn apart by those that seek to divide - that together we will work to turn tragedy into triumph.
The moment of my life you saw on that video does not define me… and for those who are not familiar with my work, I hope to earn your trust and support.
While Lawson-Muhammad has received criticism from some board members, as well as residents, representatives of two local organizations also spoke at the meeting in her defense.
Ronnie Schwartz, representing SOMA Justice, submitted a 267-person petition supporting Lawson-Muhammad remaining on the board.
“We urge the board not to request or accept her or Elizabeth Baker’s resignation and to permit Lawson-Muhammad to resolve any remaining issue with the South Orange Police Department in her personal capacity,” she said, reading from the petition.
Rosemary McLaughlin, speaking for PARES - Parents in Partnership for Respect and Equity in SOMA Schools – also offered support: “We wish to vehemently condemn the attack and salacious media circus that has erupted in the last 24 hours on Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad.”