VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It was another long and controversial night at the Virginia Beach school board meeting.
Recent comments made by a board member about the division’s equity policy had a lot of people talking.
Dozens of people signed up to speak after board member Vicky Manning recently claimed the policy uses race to divide.
10 On Your Side spoke with Virginia Beach officials who said that’s simply not true.
Manning recently spoke out against the equity policy on Patriotically Correct, a conservative radio talk show hosted on the Red Voice Media website.
“I don’t see anything wrong with anything I stated on that show,” she said in a recent interview with 10 On Your Side.
The board adopted the policy last fall. Its goal is to be more inclusive and to create a barrier-free environment for all students regardless of race, gender, disability and other factors.
However, Manning said she believes the policy itself is divisive, pointing to implicit bias training.
“I think that we need to be identifying our students and our teachers by the contents of their character, not the color of their skin,” Manning said.
The Virginia Beach City Public Schools Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion said the policy does not focus solely on race. We’re told it seeks to be inclusive of students’ culture.
“Their lived experiences, their beliefs system, their values system, their world view based upon where they live,” said Dr. LaQuiche Parrott, director over the office. “All those are important parts of one’s culture, not just your race and ethnicity.”
In an interview before the meeting, Parrott said the policy implements culturally responsive practices to foster a positive learning environment.
“Culturally responsive practices get us to examine our practices, our processes, examine our structure,” Parrott said. “Who’s included, who’s not.”
“I want more details about what the administration is endorsing as to what they’re teaching and doing trainings,” Manning said.
We’re told board members have been invited to view staff training and more opportunities are planned.
“That’s how we gain their support, by keeping them truly informed and aware of what we’re doing and I think having them walk through it themselves will give us them that opportunity,” Parrott said.
Many speakers spoke out against the policy and in support of it, too. A few teachers also spoke out, saying the equity policy is needed and it should not be politicized.
Parrott gave an update on work surrounding the equity policy during Tuesday’s meeting.
VBCPS is currently undergoing an equity assessment and findings will be presented in July. A multi-year equity plan to move work forward will then be drafted.
However, the majority of the board’s discussion after the presentation focused on Manning.
Several board members admonished Manning for her comments on the talk show and her social media channels. They pointed to a small clip of recent staff training that was featured during her appearance on the talk show.
Board members Kim Melnyk and Beverly Anderson said the clip was used out of context to spread misleading information about the equity policy as a whole.
Some board members also alleged Manning obtained that video clip by gaining unauthorized access to the staff training by using a school-issued computer and logging on with someone else’s credentials.
In an emotional rebuttal, Manning said she was shown a recorded video of the training by a teacher who participated in it. She said the teacher contacted her with concerns about what was being presented.
Manning denied the allegations, saying she had been slandered.
“I will be calling my attorney first thing tomorrow morning,” she said.