Public education system is ‘under attack,’ NAACP, others tell Indian River School Board
Treasure Coast Newspapers | By Colleen Wixon | February 28, 2023
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Public education is under attack, particularly here, and the community must rally to support those in the crosshairs, local NAACP members and others told the School Board Monday.
“I come to you sad, dismayed and conflicted,” Indian River County NAACP President Anthony Brown said. “I refuse to be angry. I will not allow stupidity, ignorance, arrogance and racism to control me.”
Indian River County, specifically, is under attack, Brown said, referring to Gov. Ron DeSantis targeting 14 school board members around the state who are up for election in 2024. They need to be ousted, DeSantis said, because they failed to protect parents’ rights and did not shield students from “woke” ideologies.
Local board members Peggy Jones and Brian Barefoot are on the governor’s hit list as is St. Lucie County School Board member Jack Kelly.
Answering the call
More than 100 people answered Brown’s call to turn out for Monday’s School Board meeting. Last week, following release of DeSantis’ list, he urged NAACP members, pastors, civic organizations and other residents to support Jones and Barefoot by attending the board meeting.
“We must turn out to show support for those who fight and support our children and us. We must, at this moment, stand up and get involved,” Brown said in his call to action. “We can no longer be complicit in our apathy and absence.”
Brown questioned why other Indian River board members had not openly defended Jones and Barefoot.
“I must ask, is it political fear, ideology or simply self-survival,” Brown said. “Today it is Dr. Jones and Mr. Barefoot. But don’t close your eyes. Tomorrow it may be you.”
The recent attacks on education appear to be racially motivated or have racial undertones, Brown said.
“Are you truly here to serve my children?” Brown asked the board.
The schools should be teaching children racial history, particularly issues surrounding desegregation and racism, said resident Edward Holmes.
“We have a generation who will never understand the plight of people who have been suffering, who have seen this firsthand,” Holmes said. “My children will never know what we went through, but they can learn.”
‘We’re holding our elected officials accountable’
Still, not every speaker over nearly two hours of public input supported Jones and Barefoot.
“We’re holding our elected officials accountable. You represent the community, and if you are not protecting children, you’re not doing your job,” said Jennifer Pippin, chair of the Indian River County chapter of Moms for Liberty, a grassroots group which advocates for parent rights. DeSantis joined Moms for Liberty last year in endorsing school board candidates who shared conservative views.
Board members’ voting records on issues such as mask mandates and book bans were sent to the governor and other state elected officials, Pippin said.
For their part, board members thanked the community for its support.
“Our public education is under attack,” Barefoot said, adding the attacks are deteriorating the public education system and hurting children.
“(Children) are being robbed of the same opportunities I was given because it’s become so polarized,” Barefoot said.