School Board Member Finishes Wine Glass, Flips Off Zoom Meeting, Prompting Demands for Apology

A Buffalo, New York, school board member is being asked to apologize or step down after video emerged showing her finishing the contents of her wine glass before flipping the middle finger and cursing at others during a Zoom meeting.

At least two Buffalo school board members and several local residents are demanding an explanation from Paulette Woods, who appeared to curse and make the hand gesture during last Wednesday's online video meeting. Woods initially denied the outburst occurred at all, but video obtained by The Buffalo News Friday shows her gulping down the contents of a wine glass in a kitchen before swearing and holding her middle finger up to her Zoom call camera. The newspaper's editorial board joined residents and Western New York educators in calling for Woods to "apologize for rudeness, then accept the consequences."

Later, Woods issued a formal apology Saturday evening, as reported by WGRZ-TV in Buffalo. She said media focus over the "seven-second incident" is taking away from important problems within the educational system - a critique echoed by many Buffalo parents and residents.

During the Zoom meeting, Larry Scott, Woods' fellow board member, can be seen calling out the profane flare-up, which was in the midst of a contentious ongoing discussion over the extension of a superintendent's contract. Woods can be seen mouthing the words "shut the f**k up b***h, shut the f**k up," before pushing her middle finger up against the camera.

"We have a board member who is giving people the middle finger on her screen," Scott can be heard saying during the contentious Zoom call.

Baffled board president Sharon Belton-Cottman responds "Sorry...what?" as Scott replies: "There is a board member that was just swearing and giving the middle finger to everybody on the screen."

There is either too much competing audio from the dozen or so others on the school board call or she has been muted. It's unclear who specifically she is directing her outrage toward. As a result, the Zoom meeting was derailed and multiple fellow members called for it to be adjourned just moments later.

"The video is clear as to what occurred," Scott told WGRZ. "There is... it is completely absurd to me to claim unfairness — that concerns are unfounded. I mean then try to communicate better to the parents, the students and community members that have seen that video."

Woods has repeatedly denied she was sipping from the wine glass or even cursing during the Zoom meeting. But The Buffalo News editorial board urged her to take responsibility for the seemingly unprovoked outburst.

"Her behavior is complicated by her position as a member of the Buffalo School Board, where she represents the Central District and chairs the Board's Finance and Operations oversight. In that position, she may be a step removed from the students who interact with teachers and other actual grown-ups, but she is nonetheless a role model – a poor one, based on her behavior last week, but a role model, regardless," the editorial board wrote, asking she immediately offer an apology for her actions.

Newsweek reached out to both Scott and Woods for additional remarks about the incident Saturday.

Buffalo residents have taken to Woods' Facebook page asking her to explain the outburst and to potentially resign her role on the school board.

"You've had a decorated career with a large impact on others, but what happened at the school board meeting was not acceptable. Our community needs positive role models and professionalism, not insults and yelling. Since you cannot accept your actions and apologize, please consider stepping down," resident Phil Stokes wrote on Woods' Facebook wall Wednesday.

Zoom calls and other forms of video teleconferencing have become the "new normal" amid the coronavirus pandemic, as many workplaces continue to avoid crowding into office workplaces.

Updated 6:09 PM ET, to include that Woods made an apology on WGRZ Saturday.

paulette woods zoom meeting outburst
A Buffalo, New York, school board member is being asked to apologize or step down after video emerged showing her finishing the contents of her wine glass before flipping the middle finger and cursing at others during a Zoom meeting. Screenshot: YouTube | The Buffalo News