Apology : a content analysis of public school district apologies in race-related incidents and crises.

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The need for crisis communication for public school districts is at an all-time high as school shootings and other such crises occur at a high frequency (Gainey 2009).1 Incidents relating to racism are rarely studied in the realm of crisis communication especially in public school districts. When an organization is at fault, in a crisis of reputation, a statement of apology can be one of a few ways to atone for the incident. Using the Situational Crisis Communication Theory, this research will work to analyze the content of public apologies and statements from 32 public school districts which have faced race-related crises in the last several years. In particular, this study aims to answer three questions for each study: • RQ1: Are statements more/less likely to include direct mentions of race in certain terms? • RQ2: Will more/less statements include the transcendence strategy than not? • RQ3: Are district statements that do/do not address race directly more/less likely to have negative news coverage? The apologies and statements from principals, assistant principals, superintendents, and/or administrators were coded for the presence of specific strategies found in the SCCT. As a second method of analysis, social media comments were coded for overall satisfaction with one of the apologies and with the racial elements of the apology. Findings indicate fewer statements mentioned race in certain terms, about half utilized the transcendence strategy. Conclusions also indicated that in statements that did not mention race, news coverage was consistently less negative.

Communication. crisis management. racism. public schools. public relations.