What happened last week during a virtual meeting of the Cabarrus County Board of Education has already made many headlines across the state.
Yet, if you have not heard about it, a member, Laura Blackwell, responded to another board member with a derogatory term that is considered offensive without turning off her audio feed.
From the Concord Independent Tribune:
From another report form the same source:
Yes. It was offensive of her to use the word “retarded.” It was meant to be derogatory and demeaning in the context in which it was said. She is a school board member and that should not be used by a school board member in any capacity given that she has been elected to represent all school children no matter the obstacles some may face.
And she was elected to do this job which menas she wanted to be in this position.
Furthermore, there is an unprecedented pandemic going on that requires leaders to be even more like… leaders.
Petitions to remove her and open calls for her resignation have been plentiful and they are right to be made.
As a veteran teacher in public high schools, this would offend me as a professional. As a parent of public school students, this offends me.
And as a parent of a child with an extra chromosome and intellectual/developmental delays who has been called “retarded” and knows the intentions of the word, I am more than offended.
But it was her apology that really angers me. Why? Because it seemed more like an explanation of why she said it that drifted off into an explanation of victimhood.
“I want to take this opportunity to address the very unfortunate incident that took place at last night’s school board meeting. During one of the breaks, my microphone remained on and comments that were made in private suddenly became very public. Whether in private or public, I acknowledge my comments were insensitive and inappropriate.
“I allowed my immense passion for the welfare of our children and for serving this community to manifest itself through emotion and frustration. Although I never intended to offend anyone, I do realize that my words had the potential to cause pain and reinforce a negative stereotype. I deeply regret my choice of words and I sincerely apologize to anyone that I may have offended.
“The last 12 hours have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have received messages that have both questioned my integrity and my character.
“However, not to be overshadowed by hatred and political posturing, has been an overwhelming amount of loving support from so many of you that know my heart and believe in the work that we are trying to accomplish together. Because of each of you, tomorrow morning I will dust myself off and get right back to serving this community, our students, our amazing faculty and staff members and this country with the same level of passion as I had on Day 1.”
It reads more like she said, “I want to address something that was said” rather than “address a direct action on my part.”
“Comments” were not “made.” She actively shared her thoughts.
“I allowed my immense passion for the welfare of our children and for serving this community to manifest itself through emotion and frustration.” What???? That reads more like “I so love these kids no matter their obstacles that my passion made me say something like this in a moment of time when I thought no one else could hear me.”
She didn’t blurt out these words. She saved them to be said in an arena she thought she could control. That’s not passion. That’s “I have used these words before, but made sure that they were not said in public because I know how people take it.”
“The last 12 hours of my life have been some of the most difficult of my life.” Imagine being in this pandemic without a job and a dealing with a government that refuses to offer more help.
“Overshadowed by hatred and political posturing?” Mrs. Blackwell forgets that her “insensitive and inappropriate” words certainly were not said out of love and in fact were in response to political actions taken by the state.
In 23 years of teaching high school English in two states and three large schools, I would say that I have heard the gambit of offensive language that comes from the mouths of teenagers. Inappropriate words can be said flippantly or directly in response to a lot of actions or things said.
But, it really has been a while since I have heard a teenager use the word “retarded” within my ear shot. Yes, most students I come into contact with know I have a son with Down Syndrome, but those same students have mostly discarded using that word as they see its power and its effects.
It says a lot when the only time in recent memory that I have heard with my own ears that word used as a derogatory term comes from a school board member during a public meeting who professes a “high level of passion” for public service as part of an election platform.
She should resign.