The Atlanta Board of Education and Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent have called for work on “dismantling a racist and oppressive system” in statements issued in the wake of the George Floyd protests.

In a June 1 joint statement, school board members said they were “heartbroken and upset” by the killings of Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

“But the murders of black men and women by vigilantes and police are not new, and it is important for the Board to reaffirm that Black Lives Matter,” the statement continued, declaring solidarity with protesters.

“We know we cannot do this work alone,” the school board wrote. “The work of dismantling a racist and oppressive system that has an over 400-year legacy will not be easy and requires people of all communities coming together to address inequities.”

The board noted it adopted a strategic plan and equity policy last year and will work with the community on them “so that we can finally see a day where the color of your skin does not predict whether you are likely to be healthy and safe, graduate from high school, be economically stable, or live out your childhood dreams.”

In a June 5 statement, outgoing Superintendent Meria Carstarphen backed the school board’s stance in a “racial injustice crisis.”

“Let me be clear, we can all do something to dismantle systemic racism because black lives matter,” she wrote.

She said the district supports protests, but not rioting or looting, and will back the free-speech rights of staff members and students.

Lisa Herring will take over as APS superintendent on July 1.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.