Dec. 20, 2018  

Broward School District’s Apology for Consultant’s Offensive Comments Not Strong Enough

As journalists, we’re prepared to endure scrutiny of our work to ensure that we’re honest, accurate and accountable. But comments made by a Broward County School District public relations consultant go far beyond appropriate criticism. The personal attack on Sun Sentinel reporter Scott Travis, mercilessly presented as advice to fellow public relations professionals during a conference, sets a dangerous precedent.

It is the responsibility of Broward schools leadership to assure the students, parents, teachers and journalists in its district that personal attacks on journalists are unacceptable and that it stands by a free and independent press.

The statements issues this far are not strong enough.

While we understand that Sara Brady — the crisis management consultant who referred to school district critics as “crazies” and called the Sentinel’s Travis a “skanky” “jerk” who “smells bad” — scaled back her comments, she did not apologize to Travis. Neither did Tracy Clark, the school district spokeswoman heard in the video shouting “sour milk” after Brady commented that Travis “smells.”

Brady is no longer on contract with the district, while Clark remains employed with the district but was demoted before Brady’s comments became public.

Superintendent Robert Runcie personally apologized to Travis and in an email to Broward-Palm Beach New Times said Brady’s comments were “inappropriate, hurtful and in no way represents the views and values of the leadership and School Board of Broward County.”

In addition to the private apologies, Broward schools leadership should issue a public statement denouncing Brady’s comments and calling for civility between the press and government agencies, lest personal attacks on journalists become a common occurrence.

Both Brady and Clark owe Travis and the public an apology. We can’t, however, hold private individuals to this, but we can hold accountable the taxpayer-funded government agency that employed Brady and Clark. To remain silent is to condone these offensive statements. If that isn’t the position of the school district, make that clear.

– SPJ Florida Board

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