The day after a York City School Board meeting broke down into a shouting match and accusations of racism, two members said it's not clear if the fractured board can be mended.

At Wednesday's meeting, several accusations against board members made by the public during the comment session led to members arguing with each other, and two of them left before the meeting ended.

President Jeanette Torres does not expect the board members will soon make amends, and doubts anything can be done about the rift.

"How do you make people collaborate?" she said. "You can't make them do anything they don't want to do."

The fight between board members Wednesday was set off by comments made during an hour-and-a-half public comment session before the board meeting, several people at the meeting said.

One allegation was lodged by former board member Michael Breeland. He told the board that Torres had told a woman not to trust black people in a private conversation in mid-July.

Torres denied that she said that or anything racist.

Another community member spoke about a fight at the York County School of Technology last year between a black York city student and a group of white boys who also videotaped the incident.

Stephanie Seaton, the black student's mother, said the Department of Justice ruled in March that the technology school did not appropriately address the racial issues of the fight.

Seaton said she was angry that board vice president Tom Foust, the district's representative on the technical school's board, did not share the Department of Justice report with the York City School Board when it was released.


Seaton is the director of the York County Human Relations Commission, but said she was not speaking in that capacity.

Foust said he thought the issue at the technical school was resolved and that Seaton had signed off on the steps being taken to address the issue. He said he was surprised she came to the city board with her complaints instead of taking it up with the technology school's board.

The school board began fighting among themselves Wednesday during and after the public comments, with Beverly Atwater accusing Foust at one point of not caring about the needs of black students, board members said.

Foust refuted that remark Wednesday night. On Thursday, he said he has been an advocate for fair housing in the region, has black people in his family and is on the school board to serve all students.

Board member Samuel Beard said Thursday he wants an investigation of Torres and the alleged racist remark. He said he believes black members of the school board have been marginalized.

"Hopefully (after Wednesday's meeting) people will better understand what we go through," Beard said. "Maybe we're not the ones that need to mend our ways."

Board member James Morgan said he hopes the board will meet soon to talk about the accusations made at Wednesday's meeting.

"It's a hard topic but we've got to get beyond it," Morgan said.

What happened Wednesday varies depending on who is describing it, but the school board members' problems with each other reach back further than that meeting.

Ever since new board members took seats in December, votes have been divided largely by skin color, with all but one of the black board members in the minority voting bloc.

In the board majority bloc are Torres, a Hispanic woman, and Foust, a white man. Three others tend to vote with Torres and Foust: Barbara Krier and Renee Nelson, who are white, and Elmira Sexton, who is black.

The four other board members - Atwater, Beard, Morgan and Hiawatha Powell - are black.

Earlier this year, the minority bloc of board members called for Krier to step down because she used the phrase "you people," which some board members took to be a racist statement against black people. Krier denied those accusations and did not step down.

Atwater, Powell and Sexton left the meeting Wednesday after Torres called a recess that ended the long public comment session. When the meeting resumed and the board began its regular business, those three did not return.

Sexton, who declined to comment on the disputes, said she left because she had promised to pick someone up from the train station that night.

Atwater and Powell met with community members outside the building as the board meeting went on without them.

Powell and Atwater could not be reached for comment Thursday.