UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) – An audience of nearly 200 attended Tuesday’s Upper Arlington City School Board’s meeting, the board’s first public meeting since a video recorded in secret captured a district administrator talk about critical race theory.
“You are all here because you care deeply about our schools, our students, and our community,” said board president Lori Trent, opening the meeting. “We are friends, neighbors, and all community members, which make Upper Arlington the incredible place that it is.”
All told, the public comment section of the meeting, with nearly all commentators addressing the video and its content, lasted more than two and 1/2 hours.
The first speaker chastised the board for not focusing on academics.
“I do not want anyone’s religion or politics in our schools,” the woman said. “I want to make things easier for our teachers by not burdening them with all the extra stuff that is not a part of public education or state standards.”
The video, posted in mid-January by a conservative self-proclaimed watchdog group, was filmed in secret by two people claiming to be interested in enrolling a student. In addition to Upper Arlington, a secretary at the Groveport Madison School District was also in the video.
According to a statement from Upper Arlington, Matthew Boaz, the Upper Arlington executive director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, was led into the critical race theory discussion by the couple.
Connie, a parent of two former Black Upper Arlington students, said her children experienced racism while students in the district, including taunting about lynching.
“Fortunately, my children had a strong family and we were able to expose them to a number of strong Black role models,” Connie said, adding it was a small group of people targeting her children. She then compared that group to the small group of people targeting Upper Arlington and minority groups now.
Josh, another parent, called the video a “flimsy piece of propaganda.”
“If they succeed in ridding our curriculum of anything they consider to be other, what happens when our kids encounter people unlike them once they leave the bubble?” Quinn said. “Worse, what happens to the kids in our district right now who are any of those things? The people they seek to shroud are the real world.”
Sally, a parent of Upper Arlington graduates, said Boaz’s comments in the video caused her “great unease.”
“At the very least, I believe he used extremely poor judgement in the choice of his words and, at the worst, it appears he believes the DEI program and initiatives he manages do not need to fall under policies of the school district and is looking for loopholes to get around potential pending legislation with the state.”
Both districts said that while they remain dedicated to inclusion and diversity, critical race theory is not taught in either district.
The Upper Arlington board did hold a closed executive session soon after the video went public, drawing protests from nearly a dozen parents who said the board should focus on the children and not on responding to “propaganda.”
Critical race theory, which states that there is a racial bias inherent in many parts of society, but particularly legally and socially. It has become a lightning rod topic in recent years for conservative education reform groups, even though no public school district in Ohio has critical race theory as part of its curriculum.