Dozens of parents, community members and CCSD staff filled a room inside of a Clark County School District building Thursday night. On the meeting’s agenda included addressing race relations within the district and the protocol for communication of school threats.
The already impassioned meeting quickly took a heated turn after one of CCSD’s new trustees, Danielle Ford used an offensive, antiquated word to describe black students, referring to them as “colored.”
Trustee Ford had addressed the crowd to say that race issues should not be generalized as safety issues. “There’s two different problems we’re dealing with right now,” Trustee Ford stated. “One is our lack of safety protocols, and the other one is safety of ‘colored’ students in general.”
Ford was seemingly unaware of her word choice at first, until Trustee Linda Cavazos, seated at Ford’s right, leaned over and whispered something to Ford. “I’m sorry,” Ford responded. “I am so sorry for saying that. I am so sorry for saying that.”
Ford continued apologizing, stating she meant to say “students of color,” but for many in the audience, the damage was done.
“All of your words mean nothing,” called out one woman as another walked out of the room. “You just showed your true colors.”
“Okay, I apologize,” responded Ford. “But I do want to say that I’m working on my own implicit bias, so I totally respect—” “Then do it off this bench,” one person interjected from the audience. “You shouldn’t be on the board,” someone else called out as a few more people walked out of the room. “You shouldn’t be on this committee.”
Less than a month after two students were arrested for making racist threats on social media against black students at Arbor View High School, the comment proved to many in the audience, that there is far more work to be done.
“That to me shows me that the board is not ready to tackle this issue,” stressed Ebony Davis, whose son was one of the victims of racist threats at Arbor View. “They don’t understand the plight and struggle of African American men and women.”
“The systemic racism starts at the top and works it way down and we’re seeing that today,” expressed Pastor M.J. IVY. “That is a term that’s offensive and old. As a pastor, the Bible says ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.’ So in other words, this is a person who does this on a regular basis and now brought it to the public forum. She needs to turn in her resignation and we demand she puts it in immediately.”
Ford’s comment shifted the focus of Thursday night’s meeting, but Superintendent Jesus Jara did reveal some changes made by the district, including expelling the students who made the threats, offering free counseling to affected students and their families, and bringing the National Equity Project on board—the California-based organization will train cultural competency for Arbor View High School and eventually the rest of the school district.
Superintendent Jara also announced that he‘s approved the budgeting of two more emergency management positions to join its current staff of just one position.