Editorials

Hey, Lee’s Summit school board: ‘Driving while blond’ is nothing like driving while black

Lee’s Summit superintendent’s plan for racial equity leads some to call for his ouster

A leader of the Lee's Summit NEA teachers union advised the school board against extending the contract of Superintendent Dennis Carpenter.
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A leader of the Lee's Summit NEA teachers union advised the school board against extending the contract of Superintendent Dennis Carpenter.

A Lee’s Summit school board discussion of racial equity got so contentious the superintendent invited the board to buy him out and hire someone more to their liking. No wonder Superintendent Dennis Carpenter was frustrated after the board president suggested that “driving while blond” is an issue on par with driving while black.

That got some guffaws, of course.

But board president Julie Doane was being serious when she equated dealing with assumptions made about her because she is blond to the racism that people of color regularly come up against.

That she made that comment while arguing against the need for racial equity training sure proves the need for racial equity training.

But the underlying issue is no joke. A study found black students in the district being outperformed by their white counterparts in everything but suspensions.

After board members voted down yet another plan to help close that gap, Carpenter told them they should “find somebody this board can trust.”

“I do not want you to (renew) my contract,” said Carpenter, the district’s first African American superintendent, who was hired two years ago. “Every piece I put forth in this district to try and assure equity, it was met with opposition. What this district needs to help move it forward is a superintendent it can trust.”

The shame is that all of the parents and students in the affluent, mostly white district can’t trust their school board to represent them.

Board members Dennis Smith, Jackie Clark and Ryan Murdock fulfilled that duty when they voted in favor of hiring Education Equity Consultants.

“If spending $97,000 is going to help us understand each other,” Murdock said to applause, “then, man, I’ll take that every day of the week.”

But new board members Judy Hedrick and Mike Allen, as well as Doane and Kim Fritchie, voted no.

“We don’t have to be a divisive community,” Allen said.

True, but how is that going to happen?

Doane also says she objects to the notion of white privilege. Which was on full display in this whole unfortunate non-conversation.

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