Loudoun School Board members huddled in a basement conference room at the Ida Lee Recreation Center last week to experience the same cultural competency and sensitivity training being rolled out to teachers and administrators throughout the school division.
By design, the three-part workshop series pushes participants outside their comfort zones and to question their belief systems. For example, many are forced to grapple with the benefits afforded them from generations of white privilege, stretching back to America’s earliest days. When successful, the participants come away with new personal perspectives and a greater understanding of the challenge facing minority students.
Although, the exercises typically are held out as safe spaces to examine cultural difference and biases, one School Board members is under fire for a comment he made during the Feb. 18 training session.
During Tuesday night’s School Board meeting, Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee Chairwoman Katrece Nolen and Executive Board member Wande Oshode called for the board to take action against John Beatty (Catoctin) because of comments attributed to him during the session stating that former slaves were less well off following Reconstruction because they lacked the patronage of a master.
“Most people in the civilized world recognize this statement as being rooted in the very racist, inhumane and oppressive institution of slavery. To justify any aspect of slavery only 66 years after Brown versus Board of Ed eliminated inequities in the public school systems, and only a year after LCPS made national news about racially-insensitive lessons and conduct by administrators, is absolutely inexcusable,” Oshode said, who called for Beatty to resign. “No parent of minority children should feel comfortable with Mr. Beatty remaining on the school board.”
Nolen called for Beatty to be removed from his positions on the Discipline Committee and the Equity Committee and for the full board to condemn the comments.
“One cannot process culture competency while holding a Pollyannaish view of slavery,” she said. “John Beatty cannot be trusted to work in the best interest of all of our children.”
Neither Beatty nor any other School Board member responded to the comments during their meeting Tuesday.
“I’m sad to see my comments were taken out of context. We were having a conversation about how freed slaves were financially mistreated after emancipation. To think, I would be in support of slavery is ludicrous and I find the accusation offensive,” Beatty said the following day.
He also sent a response by email to Nolen and Oshode:
“I deeply regret that a comment I made was construed as suggesting that I support slavery. I do not! I abhor slavery and all the injustices that have occurred since then,” Beatty wrote.
“In reading the quote out of context, I agree that it is offensive. However, the point I was making was not, as I was speaking to the issue of being deliberate and thoughtful before taking any actions,” he wrote. “As elected officials, we have an obligation to consider all sides of any question and to carefully consider the ramifications of any actions we take. History teaches us that if we fail to do so, our actions can have far-reaching negative consequences. I referenced the Jim Crow laws as a particularly egregious example of this, as the laws made it impossible for the recently freed slaves to support their families. To avoid making similar mistakes, we must always consider all sides of any question and think carefully about the impact of our actions. And as I have just learned, we must also guard our words to make sure that when quoted out of context, they cannot cause offense.”