Unlike last month’s meeting, which saw tempers flare between board members and disgruntled parents who refused to wear face coverings, this meeting was a breath of fresh air. With several Gwinnett County Public School police officers and Gwinnett County Sheriff’s deputies present, no disruptions ruined the meeting.
“It was much better (and) incredibly productive relative to the obstruction that occurred at the last board meeting,” school board Chairman Everton Blair said.
On Thursday afternoon, the environment was far more respectful than the earlier one a month ago and was made possible with planning and proactive measures.
Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks clearly stated his expectations as the meeting began.
“Tonight, as you entered this facility, you were provided with a flyer that outlined the expected behavior and decorum of visitors to the meeting,” the superintendent said. “We cannot and will not let adult misbehavior have a negative impact on the important work that we, as a governing board, are doing for the children of this county.”
Especially considering the state board of education’s recent decision to condemn the teaching of critical race theory which teaches about the systematic oppression and racism that minorities, especially Black people, have faced in America.
While last month many opposed CRT, speakers Thursday were quick to condemn the State Board of Education for denouncing Critical Race Theory and heavily pushed back against their decision.
“How can parents trust the State Board of Education with our children’s education when they attempt to whitewash American history? Slavery is not a deviation, but a true representation of the foundation American was built on. Did they forget about policies such as the three-fifths compromise that were written into the Constitution as a means for incorporating slavery into this country’s founding system?” Anyah Jones said during the public discussion.
Gregg Kennard, State Representative for District 102, also had plenty to share at the meeting.
“Our public-school U.S. history is incomplete; therefore, it’s dishonest and misleading,” said Kennard.“The real American story is not good (and) it’s hard to accept, but the hard thing and the right thing is usually the same thing. We will only be healed and free from our racist history when we are honest about it.
Supporters for the implementation of CRT were vocal, however, there were opponents to the idea of teaching it.
“Critical Race Theory holds that the most important thing about you is your race; literally, the color of your skin is what defines you,” John Devnew, an opponent of the theory, said. “It’s not your character, behavior, values, environment, none of that. It’s just your race.”
“When you really get down to what (Critical Race Theory) is all about, it’s really a Marxist, communist thought with race substituted for class warfare,” said Army veteran Paul Gardiner.
He and various other military veterans expressed their opinions to the rest of the audience.
While the public brought great points to the forefront of the public comment section of the meeting, board members deviated from the discussion by pointing to the fact that CRT is not a part of GCPS’s curriculum.
“Even though many people discuss Critical Race Theory on a professional level, in the diversity and inclusion space, it is not taught in the GCPS curriculum,” Board member Tarece Johnson said.
Karen Watkins, the Board Vice-Chairwoman, spoke on the issue with, “CRT is not being taught in our school system, nor is it a policy, nor is it anything that we are broaching today.”
With much discussion from both sides and little headway made in the meeting, it will be compelling to see where the issue of CRT progresses within Gwinnett County Public Schools.