June 15, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

The school board has refused to reconsider their decision on hiring Educational Equity Consultants (EEC) in order to provide equity training for district teachers, staff and administrators. And many of them refused to even mention equity, with the board president speaking no more than she had to in order to run another packed meeting.

After hearing from nearly twenty parents, teachers and students who asked the board to please reconsider their vote from last month, to denounce the racist comments made during their meetings, and for Board President Julie Doane to resign, the board quietly moved on to business-as-usual agenda items.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter, superintendent, interjected to suggest that the board could choose to add consideration of the EEC contract back to the agenda through the “good cause” provision of the Missouri Sunshine Law, which allows urgent or time-sensitive matters to be added to an already-approved agenda.

No one offered to move forward with the suggestion.

“I think we should, um, look at that in a work session,” Doane finally said.

Jackie Clark, board member, made a similar motion to add EEC back to the agenda at the start of the meeting and the vote failed. She later explained that as a board member who voted in favor of the contract when initially considered, she would not be able to bring the issue back to the board – a board member who voted no in May would have to make that motion in order to change the outcome.

The board’s June 13 meeting was again filled with many parents and students recounting racist incidents, microaggressions and academic disadvantages resulting from bias.

Mia, who will be in eighth grade next year, described not being called on in class, having complaints about racist slurs dismissed by teachers and hearing comments that she was “clean” or “quiet” – “unlike other black girls.”

Jonathan Crispin said he was appalled that Mia had been treated this way in this district, which is supposed to be one of the best in the nation. He added that students shouldn’t have to attend these meanings in order to recall such painful events.

“You’re adults, get it together!” Crispin said.

Others shared that in their own employment – including in the medical and legal fields – they are receiving bias and representation training.

Beth Hayles, a teacher at Lee’s Summit High School, said that she and other teachers are tired of spending their own time and money to try to educate themselves on implicit bias and unconscious bias.

“I am ready to learn from the experts,” Hayles said.

But the board wasn’t swayed.

“That concludes our public comments and let’s move on to board reports,” Doane said after the final speaker finished.

During the board reports portion of the meeting, only Clark and Board Vice President Ryan Murdock gave any response to what they heard from the community.

Doane, and therefore the district, has received national media attention for making racist and insensitive comments during their May 16 meeting.

In a district that was already struggling to handle difficult conversations about equity, achievement gaps and bias in its schools and its administration, Doane’s suggestion that the idea of privilege just made her uncomfortable has unleashed calls for her resignations and for the board to denounce her words.

Doane suggested that it was unfair for a male colleague lost a job based solely on the fact another candidate is female.

“If they’re looking for a Spanish, they might choose J.Lo over me, I don’t know,” she continued.

When asked to consider the things she doesn’t have to think about every day, like being white, Doane went on to suggest that as a blonde-haired woman, she faces the same anxiety that black drivers face when seeing the flashing lights of a cop car in the rear-view mirror.

The board meets again on July 25.