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Opponents of critical race theory escorted out of JCPS school board meeting after disruption

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 12:39 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A JCPS work session meeting was interrupted by a group of two dozen audience members who wanted to discuss critical race theory in schools.

Critical race theory was not on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting and the Jefferson County Board of Education work session meetings do not include a time for public comment. However, prior to the board meeting Tuesday night, more than two dozen people were outside of the VanHoose Education Center to voice their disagreement with critical race theory potentially being taught in JCPS schools.

Critical race theory has been around for more than 30 years. It examines the impact of racism within America and its impact on people of color. However, opponents believe critical race theory is used to divide people.

“Our concern is we want to see the best for our kids, the best education but CRT is not it,” Robert Devore Junior said. “CRT divides us by color, by creed, and by ethics. All they want to do is divide us.”

Some at the protest called it a Marxist theory.

Those who attended the protest outside also attended the school board’s work session to listen from the audience. During a discussion on the school district’s strategic plan, board member Corrie Shull was thanking the school board for keeping racial equity as part of the strategy moving forward in the state.

“I stand behind that wholeheartedly,” Shull said.

Then, some in the audience said, “All kids matter,” which was followed by more chatter from others in the audience. The board’s chairperson, Diane Porter, started banging the gavel asking the audience to “come to order,” repeating the phrase multiple times.

“If I need to stop this meeting so we will have order, we can do that,” Porter told the audience as the audience continued to talk. “I do not want to hear your comments.”

Porter decided to recess the meeting to get the situation under control. Security officers walked to the front where they explained public comment was not allowed during a work session-type meeting, but things heated up. Several board members left the room as audience members shouted at them and shouted at security officers.

“Critical race theory is not in the curriculum,” Shull told the audience, which was followed by more people shouting.

Security officers escorted about a dozen audience members out of the building before the meeting resumed. JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said he wasn’t too surprised by the heated interaction, citing it’s a topic every school district is dealing with.

“This is a very common theme,” Pollio said. “In the end for us, we’ve got to continue to do the work.”

He said the district has to reduce the achievement gap between white students and Black students in order to be successful in JCPS.

“I’m not really going to really back away from it. We do have a focus on racial equity, there is no doubt about it,” Pollio said. “We are looking at racial equity, which essentially means what does a kid need to be successful, and providing that to them.”

Board members Porter and Shull told reporters after the meeting it is important to focus on reducing the achievement gap.

“We have a lot of work to do in order to build bridges, to foster understanding, in order to develop compassion where individuals understand that in our schools we must educate all children, and some children, some demographics of children require more wraparound services, more triaging because those groups of children have been historically left out and have historically received the shorter end of the stick,” Shull said.

Porter said for the audience members who were there, she understands their frustrations of wanting to be heard by the district and board members.

“They wanted to be heard but there is a time and place for that and we will have opportunities for conversation,” Porter said. “And it probably was not as productive as it could have been, but we will have opportunities for conversation with the community.”

Porter said they will have a meeting soon that will include public comment, but they do not have a date yet.

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