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Pace teacher being investigated for racially-charged remarks

Annie Blanks
Pensacola News Journal

The Santa Rosa County School District is investigating a Pace High School science teacher whose controversial Facebook post about race and black students outraged parents on social media last week.

The teacher, Lisa Dillashaw, is also the National Honor Society sponsor and Beta Club sponsor at Pace High School. A status posted to her private Facebook page on Wednesday morning addressed the Black Lives Matter movement and her thoughts on race relations.

"We have had a black president. He has held office for two full terms," part of the post read. "We have black supreme court justices. We have black lawyers and surgeons and doctors and engineers and teachers and professors .. black people have just as much voice as white people. ... But ... get this .. Black people have one up on white people."

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Dillashaw went on to say that "black people are considered a minority and are eligible for minority scholarships ... NOT OUR WHITE CHILDREN. I don't hear our white children complaining."

The teacher also elaborated that she didn't believe her generation had "mistreated" black Americans, and that she shouldn't be held liable for actions of her "great great great great great great great grandparents."

"Also, if we really want to get into detail and get petty.. I have been called a 'honky' many times! Very derogatory!" she wrote. "I have never pulled up at a bar and honked my horn to pick up my slave!"

Dillashaw could not be reached by phone for comment on Thursday. Her Facebook page appears to have been deactivated.

Screenshots of the post were shared widely on social media last Wednesday and Thursday, as parents and community members on social media demanded Dillashaw answer for her post.

Serena Colvin, a 2015 graduate of Pace High School and former student body president, was one of the people who shared the post and expressed outrage. She told the News Journal she didn't think Dillashaw should be fired, but rather the systemic issues of racism at the high school should be addressed and all teachers should "start changing and educating themselves about race and privilege so they can make their community better for the next generation."

"When I saw the post, I was in complete shock. I could never imagine a teacher and leadership adviser of a diverse group of students at Pace speaking in such a way, and on social media for anyone to find," she said. "As a former student, I know this was not an isolated incident, and knowing this is still happening five years after I graduated hurts. But now that I'm older and have a voice, staying quiet and being complicit is no longer an option."

In response to multiple parent complains, Santa Rosa County Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said at Thursday morning’s school board meeting that the district was made aware of the post on Wednesday afternoon and was investigating it thoroughly.

“We will address it in a way both personally and with the employee, but also in a way that honors her First Amendment rights, while also taking care of the school system in a way that’s proactive,” Wyrosdick said.

In a statement emailed to the News Journal, Wyrosdick followed up by saying that Dillashaw doesn't speak for Pace High School or the school district and that her comments "are not prevalent in the amazing people I work with on a daily basis and they certainly do not represent my thoughts."

"Educators serve as teachers and, in as much, work in their official capacity and in this work are required to abide by professional ethics," Wyrosdick wrote. "In their personal capacity there are great freedoms (speech, religious liberties, assembling). These are the same freedoms you and I enjoy.

"My office, in conjunction with Principal (Stephen) Shell, will review Ms. Dillashaw's actions against professional ethics she is responsible for following," he added.

Cathy Alleyne is the mother of a black student at Pace High School who has interacted with Dillashaw before. She said she was outraged when she was made aware of the Facebook post, and demanded that the school district address it appropriately and take action.

"I'm trying to figure out, you are a science teacher, and you are head of the Honor Society, and you don't understand why we have minority grants for minority students?" Alleyne said. "That is appalling. That is big. ... The position that you're holding where you have the Bright Futures (scholarships) and you have the other scholarships, you know, you're the one that will actually probably give out letters of recommendations to students for colleges, you're the one that will determines what, as far as the Honor Society or the Beta Society goes, you determine their standings. And this is what you're saying? So why are you even participating in that program?"

Alleyne said she wants to see more multiculturalism at Pace High School and in the community at large, as well as more training and understanding about how race impacts young students.

"I'm concerned, because my child already has a disadvantage. And now you're adding to it," she said. "That's not progress. That's regress. And I'm not part of the regress. It's a problem."

Annie Blanks can be reached at ablanks@pnj.com or 850-435-8632.