June 1, 2019
Members of the community remain concerned about Julie Doane’s recent comments as part of an ongoing community and school district conversation about the need for training to address issues of racial bias, diversity and privilege.
Doane, who was elected by her peers in April to serve as the board president of the Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education, has garnered national media attention for comments that equated driving while blonde to driving while black. She also said she didn’t like the word “privilege” and that it didn’t seem fair for someone “looking for a Spanish” to choose one candidate over another regardless of qualification.
After a brief written apology sent via email, the board called an emergency meeting – where Doane still didn’t seem to grasp the weight of her comments or the concerns of parents. She said that after “a lot of soul-searching,” she gets now that she has privilege and that she wants to learn.
But many are saying that it is too little, too late. Laurie Stites Betz says it’s an inadequate response and that those in such leadership positions as Doane’s must be able to handle uncomfortable situations. Stites Betz is a member of Suburban Balance, a local nonprofit whose mission is to inform, educate and empower families of color.
“You can’t really unhear that,” Stites Betz says, adding that it’s hard to move forward with these conversations without any confidence in the leadership.
Doane also serves as board vice president for Lee’s Summit CARES, a community coalition whose mission includes preventing youth substance use and violence, empowering positive parenting and promoting exemplary character.
Members of the community are suggesting that Doane’s leadership does not exemplify the Lee’s Summit CARES mission and vision – and that her response to her initial comments show just how much diversity training is needed.
A letter that has been circulating online for sharing with Rachel Nelson-Segobia, executive director for Lee’s Summit CARES, reads in part:
“Experienced and culturally competent leadership must be nonnegotiable for LSR-7 and Lee’s Summit Cares. Julie Doane should immediately resign from ALL board leadership and immediately seek diversity training. Her comments reflect, bias, ignorance and a lack of competence for leadership in the Lee’s Summit Community.”
Nelson-Segobia told the Tribune that a group met over Memorial Day weekend and “determined that this issue will go in front of our full Board of Directors at our upcoming board meeting.” The Lee’s Summit CARES board is scheduled to meet June 17.
Lee’s Summit CARES also provided the following statement:
“Lee’s Summit CARES has been made aware of certain concerns within the community. Our Board of Directors will discuss these concerns and their impact on our efforts to recognize diversity as an important community strength and a foundation on which to build a vibrant and thriving future at our upcoming board meeting.”