Lee’s Summit school board president apologizes for insensitive comments during racial equity debate

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. - The Lee's Summit school board president is apologizing for comments she made last week that seemed to equate "driving while blonde" to the prejudices people of color face often referred to as "driving while black."

They came during a tenuous discussion about whether the school district should hire consultants to promote racial equity in the district.

The board previously had approved the equity plan proposed by the superintendent, but then Thursday voted down the proposal to spend approximately $97,000 to hire outside consultants to train teachers and staff on racial equity, diversity and inclusion.

Board members who opposed the hiring seemed to say the district could handle that training from within.

But  since the vote much of the focus has been on the Board President Julie Doane's comments during the meeting.

"I just don't like the word privilege, because I have privileges. If someone is going to hire a female then sorry buddy you aren't getting the job. Or if they are looking for "a Spanish," they might choose J-Lo over me, I don't know," Doane said.

A  consultant tried to give Doane an example of  racial inequality. "I never drive my car and think about the cop behind me and get anxious about what might happen to me," he said.

"Honey I’m blonde, I do," she responded.

“I couldn’t believe she said it.  I don’t know if she actually meant to hurt anyone. I think she was trying to make some connection and understand but it was definitely impactful," parent Christy Engemann said.

"We absolutely need this training, because she’s not a monster, she has a big heart, and yet she was misguided in the things she said," Lee's Summit teacher and parent Bess Hayles said.

Doane wrote in a monthly newsletter, "From the Dais"...  "Our commitment is to move forward in finding the right equity solution for all students. The Board of Education will meet soon to discuss our next steps and to engage with the Superintendent. We will continue to keep the staff and community updated, and we will be forthcoming with information as available. With this I would like to apologize for my comments at the Board of Education meeting last week. I'm sorry for the insensitive manner in which they were made. I look forward to learning more about how we can all work together moving forward in this conversation."

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