A Florida man who indicated he was a member of the U.S. military embarked on an angry rant at an area school district after it unveiled its new equity statement.
A portion of the new statement decries "white advantage" and vows to dismantle racism and "other systems of oppression and inequity."
District parents have been flooding the district with complaints about the racially divisive language used in the new equity statement, which was approved earlier in May, and now the district is considering pulling back on using the controversial terminology.
What are the details?
In a now-viral video, an unidentified man can be seen shouting at members of Palm Beach County's school district over the district's current mandatory mask policy and its equity statement.
The man, who can be seen on video speaking during the public comments section of the Wednesday night meeting, can be heard saying, "The school board recently adopted an equity statement. Why? Your only job is education, not indoctrination."
Audience members cheered the man's statement.
The man continues growing more and more agitated and continues, "Attention board members: Our nation is a republic! We are the people, we have a voice, our votes are our weapons, and we will use them in 2022 and beyond! We in the military, our blood, our sweat, is the equity. It is courage, character; not color, not gender, that makes this nation great. Working Americans are united, we are not divided. Stop trying to incite division among us!"
He concludes, "We are Americans first, and we will be free always!"
The school district's new equity statement and mask mandate have raised many questions and concerns from district parents, and Wednesday night's public session lasted for more than seven hours, according to a Thursday report from WPTV-TV.
The statement says that "each student — regardless of race, ethnicity, poverty, disability, language status, undocumented status, religious affiliation, gender identity, and sexual orientation — will have access to the opportunities, resources, and support they need to imagine, nurture, and achieve their dreams."
You can read the equity statement in its entirety below:
The School District of Palm Beach County is committed to dismantling racism and other systems of oppression and inequity. We will create equitable and inclusive schools that ensure students have what they need to be successful in school and life.
Achieving racial equity requires proactive and continuous investment in historically marginalized groups who have endured centuries of systemic oppression. The School District of Palm Beach County is committed to dismantling structures rooted in white advantage and transforming our system by hearing and elevating under-represented voices, sharing power, recognizing and eliminating bias, and redistributing resources to provide equitable outcomes.
The School District of Palm Beach County will take ownership for students' academic mastery, emotional intelligence, and social-emotional needs by creating environments where students, families, staff, and communities will develop agency and voice.
The School District of Palm Beach County acknowledges the existence of—and will eliminate—systems, processes, and mindsets that perpetuate race, ethnicity, poverty, disability, language status, undocumented status, religious affiliation, gender identity, and sexual orientation as predictors of achievement.
The School District of Palm Beach County will embrace, celebrate, and honor our students, families, staff, and community members and their unique cultural histories, while ensuring each student achieves personal and academic success.
According to WPTV, there was an "enhanced police presence and security measures" both inside and outside the building during the contentious meeting, a move the board said was "done in an abundance of caution."
More than 100 people spoke during the meeting, and the board said it received "hundreds" of emails in protest of both the mask mandate and equity statement.
Last week, Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy announced that face masks will be optional for students for the 2021-2022 school year. Masks are still required for the remainder of the current academic year, which ends June 18.
District may now pull back on 'white advantage'
On Friday, the Palm Beach Post reported that the school board is now considering removing the reference to "white advantage" from its recently approved declaration.
In response to the backlash, board member Karen Brill recommended that the reference to "structures rooted in white advantage" be removed from the statement.
"It is evident that a few of the words are not helpful, and in fact, are harmful," Brill said.
According to the outlet, Brill proposed that board members consider revising the language for a new approval.
"School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri echoed Brill's proposal, saying that the statement was being so widely misinterpreted it had created an 'untenable situation,'" the Post added. "The equity statement, he said, was intended to explain the school board's dedication to offset the effects of inequities between children, not to draw a distinction between the school district's white and non-white students."
Barbieri said, "I think it's important that we understand that was the purpose of the equity statement. It wasn't to make it a black and white issue, which is what the perception is now."