Groups call for JCPS board member to resign over ‘racially insensitive, if not racist’ comments

JCPS board member responds to controversial comments made in meeting

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Civil rights groups are calling for a JCPS board member to step down following comments she made at Tuesday night’s meeting.

During a discussion about black students with special needs being disproportionately punished compared to students of other races, JCPS District 5 Board Member Linda Duncan commented that people often do not act proportionately.

“I feel like we’re focused so much on decreasing the numbers that appear in disproportionality, that we’re not focused on the behaviors being identified,” she said in the meeting.

Wednesday, Duncan sat down with a WAVE 3 News reporter to defend by her comments. She said she feels bullied and misrepresented.

“I don't think people do things or behave always in proportion or proportionate to the group that they belong to,” Duncan said. “I just can't see behavior like that, and nobody can tell me how people have behaved in proportion to the group that they represent.”

In Tuesday’s meeting, she illustrated her point with an example that has also set many people off.

“If we did that with our basketball teams, they would look entirely different than what they do now,” Duncan explained in the meeting. “They would say our African-Americans are only 37 percent of the population, so therefore, our basketball teams should only be 37 percent of the population.”

She explained that statement on Wednesday.

“That was the comment that has apparently offended people, and I don't understand why,” Duncan wonders. “It's just a statement of fact, a breakdown of our demographics in the district, and if our state is holding us accountable for proportionate behaviors, proportionate academics, that to me doesn't make sense.”

Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds thinks Linda Duncan should step down from the JCPS board.
Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds thinks Linda Duncan should step down from the JCPS board. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Duncan believes the focus should be on students’ behaviors, regardless of race.

“I find it, at the very least, very racially insensitive, if not racist,” District 2 Board Member Chris Kolb told WAVE 3 News regarding her comments.

“It's more harmful to the good work we're trying to do at this table,” District 3 Board Member James Craig said.

Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds thinks Duncan should step down.

“I am not suggesting she's a horrible person or anything like that, but I am suggesting that the corrective action plan has to be addressed,” Reynolds told WAVE 3 News. “And we cannot have school members that don't understand the impact of disproportionality and how we really do have to deal with it.”

Reynolds says she has worked with Duncan and has also been to training sessions with her.

“I think that sometimes she struggles with finding the right words to convey what it is that she's feeling,” Reynolds said. “I also think that what she's feeling sometimes, it does not reflect a district that is as diverse as Jefferson County Public Schools.”

Reynolds thinks that Duncan has missed the mark repeatedly.

“These are system issues, right? She wants to talk about children and what choices they are making and certainly we do need to talk about discipline in schools and the behavior of all of the children, but we also have to talk about responses, whether every child is getting the same response for the same type of behavior,” Reynolds said. “The idea that a school board member does not grasp the concept of disproportionality is of grave concern to me and should be to this entire community. I am not here to say she is some moral monster; she has sometimes voted in ways that have been helpful to our community. But at the same time, I think that she really does struggle with progressing as quickly as we do need to progress on the school board and in the school system.”

Reynolds added, “The corrective action plan is not going to give us the opportunity to miss the mark, we have one shot at this, and we have to get it right.”

Duncan says she has no intention of resigning.

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