Monday, December 4, 2023

Speakers Protest Critical Race Theory at WJCC School Board Meeting Amid Growing Concerns of Equity, Equality and Race

Schools across Hampton Roads offer free or reduced lunches to their students during the school year (WYDaily Photo/Courtesy of Unsplash)
Nine speakers voiced their concerns of Critical Race Theory being taught in WJCC schools during the June 15 school board meeting. (WYDaily Photo/Courtesy of Unsplash)

WILLIAMSBURG-JAMES CITY COUNTY — The June 15 Williamsburg-James City (WJCC) School Board meeting had an interesting turnout of speakers who contributed to the growing national conversation regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Nine speakers stepped up to the podium to voice their concerns about the theory being taught in the school systems. Chairman Jim Kelly called a five minute recess when one speaker refused to yield after her allotted two minute time expired.  

This hot button topic comes after parents and community members in Loudoun County, Va. have been actively protesting topics such as preferred pronouns, new equity policies, and critical race theory during the county’s school board meetings over the last several months. 

During last Tuesday’s public comment session for WJCC School Board meeting, Amy Taylor, the second of nine speakers, said, “I consider CRT a very racist concept and it’s oppressive to all races. It has no place in our schools. Teachers should just stick to the basics and leave the rest to the families.”

Chuck Colgrove explained that while he does not have children in the school division,  he was there because his property tax dollars went toward the public schools. 

Sandra Colgrove provided a list of terms that she personally defined were part of a “contagion rooted in Marxism,” listing words like critical race theory, culturally responsive training, social emotional learning, social justice, and equity. 

Several of the speakers also called upon board members to voice their positions on CRT. 

While none of the speakers outright accused teachers or staff of teaching CRT, one speaker, Phylis Eastman, said, “I want to make sure that the board will reject that teaching or philosophy or whatever it is.”

After the public comments session ended, and several presentations were given, it came time for the school board members to give their comments. Board member, Sandra Young, was the only one to outright declare her position on CRT. 

“I find it somewhat unfortunate that in 2021 we are still talking about race. It really makes me very worried and sad. I’m very concerned about this critical race theory that has come to the forefront, especially in the northern part of the state,” Young said. 

“It’s very cynical that we look at everything through the lens of race,” she went on to say. “I would like us to teach our children to be respectful of other people’s ideas.”

Board member Kyra Cook, who spoke after Young, declined to give a position on CRT. 

“The reason I’m not going to do it is it’s not before the board. I think our comments from this dais should be limited to that which is before the board. Any other comments are really, I don’t think, appropriate,” she said. “I think it serves as a distraction to talk about national political topics.” 

Cook, however, did reference equity issues in schools, such as the separation of students based on who receives free or reduced lunch.

“I believe in equity,” Cook said. “I believe in it as a goal in our strategic plan.”

Earlier in the meeting, after a presentation regarding strategic plan updates, Superintendent Dr. Olwen Herron said, “There is not a single person in this room that is not here to meet the needs of our children in our school division,” adding that she does not want terminology to distract from the division’s vision of making every child successful. 

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 17. To watch the full June 15 regular school board meeting, click here.

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