An Ohio school board member has gone viral after footage of them mocking them at a board meeting about anti-racism was posted on TikTok.
The anonymous poster, known as @schoolboardbirddog, posted footage from the July 15 school board meeting where it received more than 4.1 million views and 13,400 comments. The video can be found here.
Anti-racism and critical race theory
A recent study published by Education Week found that many members of the public feel uncertain or confused about the teaching of anti-racism or critical race theory in schools.
Critical Race Theory is defined as a program that examines if and how certain systems and power structures perpetuate racism in the United States.
Asked about their stance on teaching critical race theory in public schools, nearly a third said they hadn’t heard enough to make a decision, while 27% were in favor and 39 % opposite.
The study also found that public unease increases when discussion of race shifts to younger classes, even though the conversation revolves more around anti-racism than a critical race theory framework.
Race theory scholar Ibram X. Kendi defines anti-racist theory as “any idea that says racial groups are equal”.
“To be anti-racist is to believe that nothing is behaviorally wrong or right – inferior or superior – with any of the racial groups…to be anti-racist is to deracialize behavior, to remove the tattooed stereotype of each racialized body “, Kendi said, according to KQED.
While critical race theory is an educational framework, anti-racism is the practice of addressing racism in everyday life.
“Make sure both sides are always taught”
In the video, Forest Hills School Board member Sara Jonas tells the audience why she drafted a resolution to ban the teaching of anti-racism in schools in the district.
“The reason I came up with this is just to make sure both sides are always taught to students,” Jonas said as the attendees laughed audibly.
“But it specifically says anti-racism is not allowed, so…” one participant told Jonas.
Jonas replied that when you look up the definition of anti-racism, it says “when you oppose racism”.
The reunion attendees laughed again, prompting Jonas to say that she wanted to have an “open discussion” but there was no way to do it with the “chatter” and laughter.
“I heard what everyone said earlier about the lack of communication, I totally agree with everyone,” Jonas said into the mic. “We can do a much better job of communicating.”
As Jonas spoke, another attendee let out an audible laugh that made her stop while looking frustrated.
“I mean it’s not funny,” Jonas said. “We’re brand new, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. We’re doing our best.”
More than 13,400 users commented on the video, with many criticizing Jones for his speech and for being frustrated with attendees.
“‘Both sides’ means…racism and anti-racism?” one user commented.
“‘We’re brand new,’ so why did you apply for a job you’re not qualified for?” another user commented.
“And that’s why local elections are important,” commented another.
“‘We want kids to learn both sides,’ that’s why we’re also introducing our flat earth curriculum this fall,” one user commented, receiving nearly 60,000 likes.
“She literally said the definition meant opposing racism – so she knows it! Later she said it meant activism,” wrote another.
Newsweek reached out to Sara Jonas and @schoolboardbirddog for comment.
Forest Hills in the news
In April, a high school in the Forest Hills School District sparked anger after it decided to postpone “diversity day”.
Earlier this year, another school district in Kansas was forced to remove an attendee from a meeting for repeatedly interrupting a conversation about mask mandates.
In Virginia, school board members walked out of their own meeting after challenging a court ruling over discrimination.