The co-chair of the Texas school board that adopted a new racial-equity policy resigned on Tuesday after being confronted by angry parents, one of whom accused him of “policing people for having a white opinion.”
The meeting featured heated exchanges between parents and the newly named director of the Texas school boards’ lawyers who is overseeing the department’s review of the racially neutral policy.
Parents say last week’s passage of the policy designed to achieve racial equity in higher education and public education created a hostile environment. They also complained that the legal department was trying to suppress feedback to the other five board members by requiring them to appoint at least two parents with concerns.
The vote to adopt the new policy was 10-0, with two board members absent. The compromise plan was crafted after several years of difficult negotiations between the board and school districts.
Unveiled in May, the new policy was carefully crafted so as not to offend people’s long-held notions of fairness. It will collect, collate and analyze information about racial equality in the state’s educational, criminal and welfare systems and distribute it to various policy-making committees. It also requires periodic reports.
The first committee to review the data was the one handling education, and was set to examine the effects of race and ethnicity on the state’s standardized test scores, academic achievement and graduation rates. During the public comment period, Tom Tannahill, a Dallas-area resident, informed the board that he had read more about the issue than most people in the state.
“I’ve been horrified and perplexed and dismayed that your district feels the need to assign teams of lawyers to investigate the public’s concerns with regards to discrimination and right here in your backyard,” he said.
While state law does not require the public or the media to report on the meetings, Tannahill expressed frustration with the lack of transparency by the office. He asked that the members be made to open the meeting.
“I believe you should have uncovers what the motivations are,” he said. “I truly do believe that this issue has gotten off track in so many ways in terms of fairness and equity and you are using this as a public relations opportunity.”
In the hallway before the meeting, Tannahill spoke with the Guardian about why he stormed out of the meeting.
“What has happened … is not for the good of the public,” he said. “We’re not even talking about knowing what was said here, we’re just setting up the misinformation and using it as a political wedge issue.”
The “Mr Johnson/King family” were “shut down by the board,” he said. The issue wasn’t about individual people but “the folks that created this thing” and the inaction by the board. “A lot of that information will make its way through,” he said.
After this weekend’s vote, the US Department of Education announced it would review the policy to make sure it complies with federal and state law. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said he was disappointed in the vote.
“It is disappointing that some of our elected officials have chosen to trade in inflammatory language, become impassioned advocates for their side of the issue and ultimately discourage lawful discussion of these important issues,” he said in a statement.