Prince William’s Racial Justice Commission discusses town hall, FOIA | Securities

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Members of the Prince William County Racial and Social Justice Commission exchanged passionate words on Thursday about the October 6 town hall meeting hosted by Commissioners Charles Haddow and Erica Tredinnick.

At one point, Haddow even invited President Shantell Rock to sue him if she believed town hall had violated Freedom of Information Act requirements for open meetings.

Rock’s absence from Thursday night’s meeting did not prevent the three Republican-appointed commission members from voicing their grievances over Rock’s statement two weeks ago that the Patriot High Town Hall School was in violation of FOIA. Three members of the public body welcomed the town hall concerning the critical theory of race in county schools.

Rock said proper public notice was not given about the meeting and members were speaking on behalf of the commission, which only she as chair can do, unless she appoints someone else.

On Thursday, Haddow pinned the meeting’s absence from the personnel commission’s public calendar, saying there may have been some confusion. He said his original intention was to hold the meeting only with Tredinnick, but when another commissioner London Steverson also asked to join, Haddow said others assured him the meeting would be clear despite the presence of three members – which usually triggers FOIA requirements.

Haddow said it was a “great meeting” with courtesy and open dialogue on critical race theory at Prince William schools. The division insisted that nothing like this is taught in county schools, and while some form of culturally appropriate education does occur, the two things are not the same.

“If Chair Rock really believes we did it [violate FOIA law], sue us. That’s the cure, ”Haddow said at Thursday’s meeting. “Don’t sit here and accuse us again… sue us because then we’ll let a judge decide and see whether or not there was an intention to. [violate the law]. “

Member Loree Williams, who also represents Woodbridge on the school board, reminded the group of the FOIA training it had received from county attorneys when the board began meeting.

“It’s very easy to get caught up and make a mistake, but that doesn’t… not to be held accountable,” said Williams. “I was very concerned that something like this would happen and it says here… if there are three or more, it’s a public meeting.”

Before the town hall dispute, the council held two listening sessions with essentially competing presentations.

First, Josh Parker, a culturally appropriate education consultant based in North Carolina, spoke about the value of teaching through “CRI”. Parker, who in 2012 was named Maryland Teacher of the Year, said teaching with a student’s cultural context and point of reference in mind creates more gateways for the student to the curriculum material. Basically, he said, teachers need to engage with their students and get to know them to find the best way to engage them.

“The program is the starting point, and they make adjustments to the job that give entry points,” Parker told the committee, giving the example of “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, for which he said that the discussion is generally limited to the subjects of the Russian Revolution and Stalinism.

“I would come from a society of iniquity, where certain rules apply to some people and do not apply to others; it gives an entry point, ”he said. “I am giving different entry points for students from different cultures so that they can access the text … in a more competent and deep way.”

After Parker spoke, Gainesville-based Paul Lott addressed the commission. Following protests against the murder of George Floyd last year, Lott founded the National Society for the Advancement of Black Americans, which challenges notions of systemic racism and white privilege.

Lott, who has previously presented to the commission’s education subcommittee, cited falling poverty rates and rising educational attainment among black Americans nationwide as evidence the country was correcting already the wrongs of the past. Locally, he said black students in Prince William County public schools graduate at about the same rate as white students.

Earlier this week, county school administrators provided detailed data on the past school year. It showed very similar graduation rates (with 97.3% of white students graduating on time and 94.1% of black students doing the same) but a growing gap on state learning standards exams.

“I’m just here to say, be careful. You’re going to go ahead and you can make recommendations on what that means, what the school district can do to affect the results. The job here isn’t to make people feel better about themselves, ”Lott said. “Your school system is one of the best in the country, and you have closed the gap over the decades with none of it; it’s something to celebrate. Let’s look at what worked and don’t change direction.

Before the meeting ended, Vice President Jahanzeb Akbar said the subcommittees aimed to submit reports to the president by November 1, so that the commission could then write a final report to the county supervisory board. . Working sessions on this report will take place in November and December.


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