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Schoemehl Apologizes for 'Nazi' Comment

Board member Vince Schoemehl (KWMU File Photo)
Board member Vince Schoemehl (KWMU File Photo)

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – St. Louis School Board member Vince Schoemehl has apologized for comparing protestors at last week's school board meeting to Nazi brownshirts.

In a statement, the former mayor said he "meant no offense to any parent or genuinely concerned community leader" with his comments.

Schoemehl says he reconsidered the remark because of its effect on his colleagues.

"I'm one of seven members," Schoemehl said. "We all share the same constituency, and I just didn't think it was right that other people were getting criticized for something I said."

Last week parents opposed to the schools' private management firm disrupted a board meeting. The following day, Schoemehl told the Post-Dispatch "That's how the Nazis took control."

Text of Board Member Vince Schoemehl's letter:

"I am writing to apologize for my unfortunate analogy of protestors at last Tuesday's School Board meeting to 'brownshirts.' This has casued serious disturbance in the community and I meant no offense to any parent or genuinely concerned community leader nor did I mean to imply any literal analogy to 'Nazis.' Rather I mean to express my genuine distress that a public meeting of an elective body was forced to close down an essential component of its meeting as a result of disruptive members of the audience. This was especially disappointing because this segment of the meeting was specifically designed to communicate the management team's rationale in identifying schools for recommended closure and the weight the management team had placed on public comments they had received prior to making their recommendations.

Since making those comments I have received much criticism from many quarters including e-mails and letters from the public. I apologize for any insult to the parents and concerned citizens of our city and I am especially sorry that I have brought more heat than light to this subject at a critical juncture. Our slate ran on a commitment to effect basic change in student outcomes and I remain committed to that platform. I especially want to apologize to my fellow board members and the many people in the community who supported our campaign.

The fact remains that the financial circumstances the School Board faces were never contemplated by any of the candidates who ran for the School Board. None of the almost 20 candidates who ran for these positions ever gave a speech during the campaign on 'the criteria to be used to close schools or cut expenses.' We all believed we were entering a period of opportunity to redirect resources in a thoughtful and careful manner with the goal of dramatically improving educational outcomes for our children. The facts have proven to be more challenging and the need for careful communications more important than ever. I have come to fully understand this, especially over the past few days, and will be more mindful of this in the coming weeks, months and years as we move toward our goal of building a school system that creates new opportunities for our children.

Vince Schoemehl
St. Louis Board of Education