CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - The Cabarrus County Board of Education approved a plan for students to return to the classroom in October after a heated called meeting in which one member appeared to make what some say were inappropriate comments.
Cabarrus students have been in remote learning since the beginning of the school year with no in-person instruction. The Board called a special meeting for Monday night following Governor Cooper’s announcement that elementary schools in North Carolina could return to the classroom fulltime beginning on October 5.
The Board voted 4-3 to approve a plan for K-3 students to return to the classroom under Plan A on October 19. Students in grade 4-12 will operate under Plan B, which is a combination of in-person and remote learning.
The district said it would release more information about the plan in the coming days.
During the meeting, one board member is heard to make comments that many are calling inappropriate. During a recess, Laura Blackwell is heard to say “I don’t give him the benefit of crap, this is the most retarded thing I’ve ever seen. We have done so much detriment to these kids...” In another exchange Blackwell appears to use insulting language towards another board member.
Blackwell later apologized for her comments.
“I feel really led that I need to speak right now and apologize," Blackwell said. “So my mic was on earlier and I was venting some frustration and I did not realize that my mic was on. I used some colorful words that I certainly apologize for. Like I said, I did not, um, there’s a lot of frustration that comes with all of this. I’m not going to make excuses for the words that I used, and just, I just want to say that I’m sorry.”
Several people have contacted WBTV saying they are upset with the comments made by Blackwell. WBTV reached out to Blackwell via email on Monday night but there has not been a reply.
“I am disappointed that the incident happened and that emotions got heated to where a board member would use hurtful language to express frustrations outside of the meeting,” Board Chair Robert Walter said. “This is not typical behavior or expression from our board members. Ms. Blackwell appeared remorseful and did apologize for her actions during the meeting.”
On Tuesday afternoon the Cabarrus County Schools provided this statement: The comments made by a board member during a recess at the Sep. 21st Called Meeting of the Cabarrus County Board of Education were inappropriate and unacceptable. As a community of educators, Cabarrus County Schools works to ensure that our students understand that it is never acceptable to use disparaging or demeaning words. We place these same expectations of civility and decorum on the adults associated with our district and do not condone what transpired during the recess.
Additionally, Board of Education Policy 2120 outlines the Code of Ethics for the Board of Education. The Board is responsible for setting policies that ensure the smooth and efficient operations of the district, as well as policies that govern the conduct of employees and board members.
Blackwell posted this to Facebook Tuesday:
"I want to take this opportunity to address the very unfortunate incident that took place at last night’s school board meeting. During one of the breaks, my microphone remained on and comments that were made in private suddenly became very public. Whether in private or public, I acknowledge my comments were insensitive and inappropriate. I allowed my immense passion for the welfare of our children and for serving this community to manifest itself through emotion and frustration. Although I never intended to offend anyone, I do realize that my words had the potential to cause pain and reinforce a negative stereotype. I deeply regret my choice of words and I sincerely apologize to anyone that I may have offended.
The last 12 hours have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have received messages that have both questioned my integrity and my character. However, not to be overshadowed by hatred and political posturing, there has been an overwhelming amount of loving support from so many of you that know my heart and believe in the work that we are trying to accomplish together. Because of each of you, tomorrow morning I will dust myself off and get right back to serving this community, our students, our amazing faculty and staff members and this county with the same level of passion as I had on day one.
I have spoken to my teammate and fellow board member Barry Shoemaker and apologized to him personally for my remarks. Barry was extremely compassionate and understanding of the situation. I know that we both share a passion for this community and serving," Blackwell wrote