Community split on Virginia Beach schools equity policy during passionate meeting, but board moves forward with 8-3 vote

Posted at 11:21 PM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-10 01:16:44-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - In an hours-long meeting Wednesday night, Virginia Beach School Board leaders discussed equity in the district. It's a policy that covers everything from race to discrimination.

“We are here to adopt a policy that will change,” said LaQuiche R. Parrott, Ed.D., Director of the Office of Opportunity and Achievement.

Almost 60 people stood in front of Virginia Beach School Board leaders in person, as well as over Zoom to voice their concerns about an equity policy that will help move the school district become more inclusive.

The conversation went on for about five hours.

“Diversity wins!”

Speakers were split on the policy.

"Students of color have systemic barriers that don't allow them to reach their potential,” said teacher Sharelle Milo, who’s for the initiative.

Some question the timing.

"Why now?” asked parent Annie Speckhart, who’s against it.

The district is looking for ways to embrace diversity and inclusion in the classroom and uplift the voices of students and teachers from different backgrounds.

"At my school, a day would not go by where I didn’t hear the N-word, gay slurs or Hispanic names,” said Connor Eppley, a former student who supports the policy.

Speakers say the policy is bigger than race and ethnic background – it’s about all underrepresented people, including the LGBTQ community.

"Hearing degrading language and comments on who they are for being different is detrimental,” Eppley added.

The equity policy was created by members of the Equity Council under Dr. Parrott to help provide resources like employee training and implement training.

People against the policy say the policy is divisive.

"Racism goes both ways. You think this thing you're going to teach is going to change anything? It's not,” Speckhart said.

Students say it’s time for change.

“We learned about the Civil War, but Confederate monuments still shine in my face,” said Sania Bagley, a senior at Kempsville High School. She supports the policy.

School board member Victoria Manning suggested substitute motion to defer a vote to send the policy to the monitoring committee to review. She's requesting a third-party equity audit.

Three board members voted 3 - 8 for the substitute motion. That didn't pass but the board did vote 8-3 on separate motion to pass the equity policy.

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