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Sarasota School Board Member Apologizes For Insults

Apr 18, 2018

A Sarasota County School Board member had a tough time keeping his composure during an emotional apology at Tuesday's board meeting. 

Eric Robinson broke into tears when he owned up to his mistakes, which included incendiary remarks about a fellow board member. (Starts around 55:00 of video)

“As a father of three children, it’s important to me to show that you don’t quit because you made a mistake,” Robinson said. “You own up to it, learn from it and try to do better.”

A record of text messages that the Herald-Tribune acquired revealed Robinson and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight were seemingly working to undermine school superintendent Todd Bowden. Both also personally insulted Shirley Brown, a fellow board member.

The conflict stems from the Sarasota County School Board struggling to find a way to pay for a new school security law.

Most Florida school districts plan to split the costs with local law enforcement, but Knight said recently his department wouldn’t follow suit. Text messages show Robinson encouraging Knight to force the school board to cover the costs.

“I should have simply accepted the situation and moved on,” Robinson said. “However, my passion on the subject turned into frustration and I sent some texts that were clearly based on the emotions I felt at the time and were disparaging of other board members and for that I am sorry.”

In his statement, Robinson reiterated that the texts were not sent during the workshop.

After the apology, board member Caroline Zucker read a prepared statement of her own, asking Robinson to resign.

“If you truly cared about our kids and this district, you would step aside,” Zucker said. “Our students and their education is a priority for this community and for this board and that should always be a priority and nothing else should get in its way.”

Despite Robinson's apology, the school board still has to find a way to work within the new law.

“I look forward to working with the board as we find viable solutions to the challenge of increased school security and others that will surely surface in the future,” Robinson said.