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The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

Speaker Choice Supported Woodbury Teacher’s Abuser

Marcia Fudge (’71) wrote a letter advocating for a light sentence for Lance Mason, who later killed Aisha Fraser
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
Marcia Fudge as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Fudge retired from the department in March.

“It would be a disgrace, absolutely. Unequivocally,” Tish Norman said of the district’s decision to have Marcia L. Fudge speak at the class of 2024’s commencement ceremony June 5.

Norman was a classmate and lifelong friend of the late Woodbury teacher Aisha Fraser, who was murdered by her ex husband, Lance Mason, in November 2018. In 2015, when Mason pleaded guilty to assaulting Fraser, breaking her jaw bone and pulling out patches of her hair in front of their children, Fudge wrote a letter of support advocating for a reduced sentence. At the time of the assault, Mason was a Cuyahoga County judge.

“Lance accepts full responsibility for his actions and has assured me that something like this will never happen again,” Fudge wrote in the 2015 letter, calling Mason “a good man who made a very bad mistake.” Fudge was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time. She represented Ohio’s 11th district from 2008-2021

Fudge’s 2015 letter of support, addressed to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty.

Mason was sentenced to two years in prison for the assault, but served just nine months before he was granted early release. He went on to murder Fraser in November 2018. In 2019, he pleaded guilty to the murder. Mason, 56, is currently serving a life sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2054.

This year’s graduating class is the last that Fraser, a sixth-grade teacher, taught for a full year before Mason murdered her.

Fudge withdrew her support of Mason in a statement after the murder. “My support of Lance in 2015 was based on the person I knew for almost 30 years — an accomplished lawyer, prosecutor, state legislator and judge. That’s the Lance Mason I supported,” she stated. “The person who committed these crimes is not the Lance Mason familiar to me. They were horrific crimes, and I condemn them.”

Norman, who spoke on Fraser’s behalf when she was posthumously inducted into the alumni hall of fame in 2023, criticized the choice. “To you all who were able to experience the magic of having her as your teacher, it would be a slap in the face,” she said.

Dr. David Glasner, the superintendent, said he was aware of Fudge’s ties to Mason before she was selected. “We recognize the tragedy of Ms. Fraser’s killing. Secretary Fudge has also recognized that and acknowledged that, and condemned it in the strongest possible terms,” he said. 

Fudge could not immediately be reached for comment.

“I acknowledge that this is a challenging situation and like many people before me, we very much support Ms. Fraser and her family. I spoke when we dedicated the bench that now stands outside Woodbury School in Ms. Fraser’s memory. I spoke then about how much Ms. Fraser’s life and service to the Shaker schools community mean to our students and our community, and that has not changed. And, we also recognize Secretary Fudge’s service to our community and our nation,” Glasner said.

Dr. John Morris, who is the president of the Shaker Heights Teachers Association but said he was not speaking on their behalf, said other teachers have approached him concerned with the district’s selection. 

Fudge is a member and former national president of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority — the same sorority that Fraser was a member of, according to Norman.

“As African-American women who are part of these historically African-American Greek letter organizations that have been around for over 100 years, it means something,” said Norman. “When you join, it’s supposed to be a lifelong bond of sisterhood.

“And because both of them not only are from Cleveland — not only ran in similar circles in terms of company, and knew many of the same people, but they were part of the same sorority — that also is a slap in the face for her to be advocating for a woman beater.”

Morris, a high school English teacher, said it’s challenging for the district to find any speaker, especially one with comparable credentials. “Former congressional leader, congressional leader of the Black Caucus, secretary of Housing and Urban Development. She’s also a Shaker hall of fame member,” Morris said. “She has a lot of very powerful connections within Shaker and represents a lot of people.”

Glasner said the district has sought Fudge as a commencement speaker “for a number of years.” 

“Unfortunately she hasn’t been available up until this year, and this year she is available,” Glasner said. Fudge retired as HUD secretary in March.

Glasner said he has received “just a couple” emails or phone calls expressing concern. “I’ve heard that there are teachers who have concerns. We also know that we have community members who have ties to Secretary Fudge who have encouraged us to invite her for years, honestly, and so I would say we’ve heard multiple perspectives on this,” he said.

“We also recognize that, you know, Secretary Fudge is available this year and hasn’t been available up until this year, and we don’t know if she will be available in the future,” Glasner said.

Morris encouraged concerned people to contact the school board and Glasner. “Part of being in a community like our own is for people to be empowered to share their concerns about issues like these,” he said. “I think it’s important.”

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  • Anna O’C | Apr 23, 2024 at 2:24 pm

    Perhaps an advocate who worked on the bill passed in Fraser’s name would be a better choice. I can’t imagine it’s difficult to find somebody who did the right thing!

  • Ezra marks | Apr 23, 2024 at 1:08 pm


  • Sam Oyede | Apr 22, 2024 at 8:49 pm

    This is an excellent piece that eloquently and effectively brings light to this situation. It is disgraceful for the district to even consider Secretary Fudge as a commencement speaker after her connection to this tragedy. I, for one, am appreciative of Dr. Morris’ outlook on community empowerment and concern, as I believe that it is imperative for there to be discussion around domestic violence and its effects on communities.