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Rally held at Jefferson County Board of Education protesting Critical Race Theory

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Jul 16, 2021

More than 100 people participated in a rally to protest Critical Race Theory being taught in Jefferson County Schools on Monday evening at the Board of Education office in Charles Town. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — More than 100 individuals gathered in front of the Jefferson County Board of Education office Monday evening to protest the inclusion of Critical Race Theory within the county’s education system. The rally, organized by We The People of Jefferson County, with assistance from Heritage Action of America, was planned to coincide with the regularly scheduled in-person Board of Education meeting in the BOE office.

The superintendent and some Board of Education members decided to hold the regular meeting via Zoom only. The public was notified of that change, on the BOE website on Monday morning.

Board president Kathy Skinner would not confirm the entire board had input in the decision, nor would she indicate a reason for the change from the normal in-person meeting.

“The meeting is [on] Zoom. I do not have details to share at this point,” Skinner said in a text, midday on Monday.

The only other board member who responded to questions was Donna Joy, who indicated she was not asked about moving the meeting online.

According to Charles Town Police Chief Chris Kutcher, Superintendent Bondy Gibson had contacted his office about the rally.

“She discussed whether she should go virtual,” Kutcher said. “I told her the police department could not give a recommendation on that, and that it was up to the Board of Education.”

Kutcher said that either way, his department would monitor the rally, but to his knowledge there had been no known threats of violence related to the rally.

As Monday evening rolled around, the rally turned out to be peaceful and organized, with speakers sharing thoughts with those present, who were carrying like-minded signs against Critical Race Theory.

Daphne Andrews, president of We the People, served as the rally’s emcee. She shared that she had attended one of the equity forums hosted by the Jefferson County Board of Education, following concerns over a summer program titled Black Math Genius that created significant divisiveness in the community.

“While I appreciate the fact that the board recognizes that there is a problem with our children’s math education, they should be addressing the problem for all students, not implementing racist programs meant to segregate and divide our community,” Andrews said. “Critical Race Theory is a pervasive disease that has already started to infect our school system.”

Jefferson County Commission President Steve Stolipher spoke to the crowd, encouraging citizens to consider running for the JCBOE to replace those currently in office.

“Running this office behind me is relatively simple,” Stolipher said. “It involves reading, writing and arithmetic, not Critical Race Theory.”

Fellow commissioner Claire Ath spoke at great length about her concerns.

“It concerned me to read that there would be a new summer math program in Jefferson County segregated for just Black students. It shocked me to read the line item budget that said $3.9 million was being set aside for such a program,” Ath said.

“When we the parents, made our voices heard, the school board began back pedaling, coming up with excuses to hide what was really happening in our schools,” Ath went on. “The school board told us the program was for all children; they told us there was an error on the budget — a budget that they then had no problem approving without any further clarification or details.”

She called for citizens to be vigilant, active participants in the education of children.

“In today’s culture, there are folks out there, just as we saw in our very own school board, who want to divide us on race,” Ath said. “They want to judge us on the color of our skin, not the content of our character.”

Ath went on to say she believed Critical Race Theory is a direct attack on America and on American values, destroying the country from the inside out.

Also speaking at the rally were Karen Buck, who has expressed her opinions frequently at JCBOE meetings, calling for the removal of any facets of Critical Race Theory; Barbara Fuller, who plans to run for a seat on the JCBOE in the upcoming election; and Jim Boothby with Heritage Action for America, who has been working to help communities across America, including neighboring Loudoun County, Va., to battle against the inclusion of CRT in public schools.