Palm Beach Co school board strikes ‘white advantage’ language from policy after fuming parents put them on notice

After hours of fielding often passionate complaints from parents, members of the Palm Beach County school board in Florida have agreed to strike language from a statement referencing so-called “white advantage” in a school district where white students don’t even constitute a majority.

Three weeks ago, board members adopted a mission and policy statement saying that the school board is dedicated 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 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,” it added.

But the statement drew fire from parents throughout the district, many of whom said it was, in and of itself, divisive and racist, leading board members to drop the reference to “white advantage” on Wednesday in a close 4-3 vote after hearing from dozens more parents and community leaders during a four-hour meeting, the Palm Beach Post reported.

“Naming white advantage is good for all of our students, even our white students,” said parent and education activist Meagan Bell during the meeting.

But another parent, Cindy Eldred, fired back, “My children will never be taught to be ashamed of or apologize for who they are because of their skin color.”

Last week, board member Karen Brill proposed striking the phrase, noting that doing so would not be “in any way weakening our positions.”

In addition to removing the ‘white advantage’ language, the statement was also changed from “redistributing resources to provide equitable outcomes” to “distributing,” the paper noted.

“We can clearly see after today’s meeting if we don’t do something to take away the words that caused all this distrust, we’re not going to be able to go forward,” School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri said after hearing complaints from several parents who likened the language to the promotion of “Marxist critical race theory.”

Brill said that any verbiage adopted by the board has “to be words people understand,” according to the Post.

“You need to understand that it is dividing the community, it is polarizing. Those are the words that are a trigger, and I want this community to embrace the work that we are doing,” she added.

But not all board members agreed that the language should be changed or removed. Alexandria Ayala, dubbed by some as an “AOC Wannabe,” vehemently objected, stating that the board shouldn’t be pressured by “disrespectful displays of people who clearly missed the point.”

“We can’t back up when we have some little resistance right out of the gate. We have to do the hard work now of committing to what we said, to what we all agreed to,” said Ayala, whose November election was marred by questions over whether she actually lived in the district she is representing, as required by state law.

But Ayala underestimates her “little resistance.”

Jack Furnari, a national columnist, and founder of BizPac Review is a highly respected political strategist in Palm Beach County who fiercely defends parents’ rights. He took the school board to task over including the controversial language in the first place.

“We understood the school board’s point. The PBCSB wanted to take the first step on the road to division, bigotry, and discrimination,” he said. “The good people of Palm Beach County have shown they will fight any attempt to hurt any of our children.”

The board’s reversal comes on the heels of a legal threat from a parent, Bryan Rudnick, whose attorney, Daniel B. Rosenthal, sent a letter to the district earlier this week demanding that the board remove a link to Black Lives Matter from the school district’s website.

“BLM’s stated positions and values and the theory of ‘structural racism’ are antithetical to those of the District and its student body,” Rosenthal wrote. “Indeed, Governor DeSantis recently announced that the ‘Florida civics curriculum will incorporate foundational concepts with the best materials, and it will expressly exclude unsanctioned narratives like critical race theory and other unsubstantiated theories.’”

“Social justice is critical. However, there is an alternative to teaching and endorsing the destruction of America and its values, denigration of police, incitement to racial division and rank anti-Semitism,” the letter added.

Jon Dougherty

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