VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach Public Schools is working to be a more diverse and inclusive environment for everyone.
Eight school board members voted in favor of adopting an equity policy at their meeting Wednesday night. Board members Victoria Manning, Laura Hughes and Carolyn Weems abstained from the vote, saying they support an equity policy but not the one as it was proposed.
The VBCPS equity council drafted the policy which would require employee training and includes curriculum for students.
Close to 60 people spoke to the board about the policy. Some said it’s long overdue.
“Why are we voting for equity in 2020? If you have to ask yourself, you may be part of the problem,” one man said to the board.
Others said the policy only furthers the racial divide and feel it’s not needed.
“Kids are ruined by the mentally sick adults who still harbor feelings of the past and make their kids feel the same,” said another speaker. “I have three Black sons that graduated from VBCPS and not one time have my sons ever come home and told me they felt racism.”
The policy would mandate training for staff and school board members themselves about implicit bias, cultural awareness, and culturally responsive teaching. It also supports a culturally responsive curriculum for students.
Others said the policy is a good move but it’s not as inclusive as it needs to be.
“I want to see more inclusion of other communities, like I said, Latino and Asian communities and Filipinos,” said Luis Cortes.
Board member Victoria Manning has spoken out against the policy online, saying the equity council who drafted the policy had little to no representation from the Latin, Filipino, or Native American community. She also voiced concerns over the use of what she called biased training.
Some people who spoke said they support the policy but feel it needs some work.
“I want to make sure they vote yes but don’t turn it into a white or Black thing,” said Audrey McDaniel.
The board heard about three hours of public comment, which was delayed by more than 30 minutes. Board member Laura Hughes wasn’t wearing a mask at the meeting.
This led to a lengthy discussion and eventually, a board vote of 8-3 that ousted Hughes from the meeting. The board and school officials cited mandates for masks in public spaces and a board “rule” that masks be worn at meetings.
Hughes, who was socially-distanced from others in the meeting room, said she was medically exempt from wearing a mask.
Board members asked her to provide documentation so accommodations could be made for her at future meetings.
Hughes left the meeting and participated in the meeting via Zoom.