Official says education commissioner was taunted with racial slurs; several parents say they heard no such thing

Oct 19, 2013 by

BUFFALO – New York Education Commissioner John B. King has been criticized for canceling four “town hall meetings” throughout the state regarding the implementation of Common Core standards, and the new reason being offered is causing even more outrage.

After first claiming that the rest of the meetings were canceled because the first was disorderly, one state education official now claims that King was taunted during the meeting with racial slurs.

Several people who attended the meeting say they heard nothing of the kind.

In the first of five scheduled public meetings about Common Core, King faced a hostile crowd. King’s presentation lasted for 1 hour and 40 minutes, while audience members were left with 23 minutes to voice their opinions and concerns.

When King attempted to use some of that time to refute criticisms, several citizens interrupted and shouted back at the commissioner.

At first New York Board of Education Regent Robert Bennett said future meetings were canceled because attendees didn’t follow “protocol,” according to a report from WGRZ-TV in Buffalo.
“If we can get some guarantees that we’ll have an orderly meeting, then we can do them again,” he said.

Then he added that members of the audience used “racial slurs” while yelling at King. “That’s not in his job description,” Bennett told WGRZ.

Several people who attended the meeting say they heard no racial slurs and doubt any were used.

“Given the fact that I am a person of color, a minority, I am acutely aware and sensitive to the challenges that minorities face on a daily basis. I can assure you that I heard no racial epithets and, in my opinion, the Commissioner’s race was not a factor at this event,” Anna Shah, a parent, told EAGnews.

“The allegations advanced by Regent Bennett are serious and disturbing. The direction Regent Bennett and King have chosen to take this matter is truly disappointing. I absolutely did not hear any slurs being lodged at King.  If I had, I would have said something then or I would be defending King now,” she said.

Parent Jolyn Safron said, “I was in the middle of the auditorium. I definitely do not remember any racial slurs being used towards Commissioner King during the forum and was very surprised and upset to hear of Regent Bennett’s claim.”

“I was sitting toward the left of the auditorium facing the stage and approximately half way back from the stage.  I absolutely did not hear anything of the kind,” parent Anne LaValle told EAGnews.

“I would make note that there were four uniformed police officers in the auditorium as well as numerous PTA members walking the floor. I would imagine if anything of the kind had happened, it would have been observed and dealt with at the time, as the hosts and police seemed quite attentive to every movement and comment from the crowd,” she added.

Yvonne Gasperino, co-founder of “Stop Common Core in New York State,” told EAGnews that Bennett’s claims are a “fabrication.”

“(My husband) and I were on the left side, middle area of the auditorium. We were there for the entire presentation.  At no time did we ever hear any racial slurs being thrown out towards Commissioner King whatsoever,” Gasperino said.

“Robert Bennett’s statement is an outright fabrication to diminish parents and teachers who are against Common Core and who are actively advocating for their children’s educational freedoms,” she told EAGnews.

“I was sitting with two other mothers from Pearl River in the third row, center. At no time did any of us use or hear racial slurs being used toward Dr. King or anyone else. I can tell you parents did become loud, myself included, when Dr. King insisted on providing a rebuttal to several parent/teacher comments. We were angry because we had sat patiently, with very little comment, while Dr. King made his presentation on the Common Core learning standards,” mother Clare McClarnon told EAGnews.

“We were also highly offended when Dr. King spoke down to us, and ‘scolded’ us as if we were misbehaving children. I admit, parents did get loud, calling for Dr. King to sit down, that it was our turn to speak. But again, at no time did I use, or hear being used by anyone in my vicinity, any racial slurs or derogatory comments,” she said.

Bennett did not reply to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment.

Official says education commissioner was taunted with racial slurs; several parents say they heard no such thing – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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