Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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Comments by Guilford GOP BOE Campaign Manager Draw Ire

Comments made by a Guilford campaign official during an online virtual Critical Race Theory (CRT) forum sponsored by the University of Connecticut are drawing criticism from many in the community. Mary Beeman, a former Board of Education member and the campaign manager for the Row B or endorsed Republican Board of Education candidates who swept into the running after a landslide victory in the Republican primary, made the comments last week.

The comment that caused the controversy made by Beeman was, “Helping kids of color to feel they belong has a negative effect on White, Christian, or conservative kids.” She has acknowledged making this comment, but has since stated that it was taken out of context and did not reflect her or the endorsed Republicans candidate’s views.

In response to the criticism and call by some for her resignation, Beeman said, “In the course of an online chat exchange during a Zoom presentation, I made a clumsy comment, which I quickly corrected. Viewed in isolation, the single line taken from the exchange suggests a position far from my true and long-expressed beliefs, and it in no way represents who I am.”

Though the endorsed Republican candidates and others have criticized Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Freeman and the Guilford school system for teaching CRT, the Guilford Public School system does not and has not ever taught CRT, according to Freeman and other school officials. CRT is a legal advocacy theory that is currently being taught by a handful of law schools, but according to most educators is currently not something being taught at the secondary school level.

According to the American Bar Association and other organizations, CRT is the practice of determining the role of race and racism in American society and how that impacts the legal field and other areas of scholarship.

However, Beeman and the Row B candidates have insisted that Guilford’s schools are indoctrinating students via CRT with a racist agenda aimed at marginalizing conservative and conservative religious values.

The upset of the incumbent Republicans on the BOE last month during their primary and now the comments by Beeman have made national news, for the tenor of the disagreement and also because of the success of the Row B candidates have received in a town that has reliably voted for Democrats in the last decade.

Freeman stressed that he will not comment on any specific campaign, but did outline his concern for Guilford students.

“Belonging is not a limited resource in the Guilford Public Schools. In no way is it a zero-sum game. We are committed to that for our students and knowing that they belong and are valued. It is important that our students know they have a place and a voice in our schools,” said Freeman. “Belonging for one student in no way takes away from the belonging of another.”

Current BOE Chair Dr. Kathleen Balestracci had more pointed comments concerning the remarks by Beeman.

“Ms. Beeman’s recent statement is appalling and represents a damaging and false narrative. Appalling because of the blatant lack of concern or regard for children of color this statement reflects. And false because supporting our students of color is not a zero-sum game,” said Balestracci. “She underestimates our children’s abilities to engage in thoughtful consideration of others’ experiences, and underestimates Guilford Public Schools’ faculty, staff, and administration to simultaneously support all our students.

“Everybody in our community benefits when each of our members is included, recognized, and supported,” Balestracci continued. “We on the BOE are committed to excellence in education and an inclusive and supportive school environment for each and every student and are dedicated to furthering the work that needs to be done to fulfill that commitment. Ms. Beeman’s views have no place in our community.”

Below is the full text of the response Beeman sent to The Courier after the criticism of her remarks arose

“In the course of an online chat exchange during a Zoom presentation, I made a clumsy comment, which I quickly corrected. Viewed in isolation, the single line taken from the exchange suggests a position far from my true and long-expressed beliefs, and it in no way represents who I am.

“Our superintendent of schools asserted that children of color need to belong. I say that they already do, as they should.

“Every child is a precious gift to our community, and I believe our school system must be—and has been—welcoming to them all.

“Critical Race Theory and its related pedagogies divides us into oppressors and oppressed, creating divisions and resentments based solely on race.

“Our Guilford children are not racists and should not be taught that they are, nor should they be indoctrinated in a particular political outlook. Every child regardless of race, religion, gender, or orientation needs to be treated with kindness and respect, and taught to treat others that way, too. Every child should be nurtured by their teachers with the goal of helping them attain their full academic potential. In my opinion, this should be the primary focus of K-12 education.

“As for Facebook, we invite all interested people to read and view our content and to offer comments and opinions. Like all responsible Facebook account holders, we remove comments that violate our standards. Incivility, personal attacks, hate speech, libelous claims and seemly speech will not be found on our page if we can help it.

“Angry, ultra-liberal extremists have attempted to abuse our Facebook page, dishonestly promoting their hateful agenda. Some habitual abusers have been banned—that is our right and our responsibility. Guilford citizens deserve better than the reckless rhetoric coming from people who are threatened by parental oversight of education.

“I am truly sorry to have typed a sentence that takes attention from our five outstanding candidates. I regret any hurt my words may have caused. The voters of our town will make a grave decision next month, between board members who will be a rubber-stamp for Critical Race Theory extremists, and a group of parents determined to provide our school system with true and transparent oversight, who will promote basics in education. I am involved in my town’s affairs because I care, and I hope people can see past a regrettable and clumsy comment typed in haste and appreciate the sincere concern that drives my involvement.”

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