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Indian River County NAACP president: Florida’s public education system is under attack

NewsIndian River County NAACP president: Florida's public education system is under attack

Indian River County NAACP President Anthony Brown speaks at a school board meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in Vero Beach. “When you objectively look at the recent attacks on education in Florida,” Brown said, “One must admit they all appear to be racially motivated, at a minimum, or have racial undertones.” Brown, along with other members of the public, spoke on a variety of issues concerning the school district, some with support of Indian River School Board member Peggy Jones and Brian Barefoot who were recently targeted by Gov. Ron DeSantis for not supporting parents rights.

Indian River School Board member Brian Barefoot speaks after public comment during a school board meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in Vero Beach.

Indian River School Board member Peggy Jones listens to public comment during a school board meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in Vero Beach.

More than 100 people attended an Indian River County school board meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in Vero Beach, to support or speak during public comment on a range of issues concerning the school district.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Public education is under attack, members of the local NAACP chapter told the School Board.

“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 a list released by Gov. Ron DeSantis targeting 14 school board members up for election in 2024. DeSantis said the board members need to be ousted because they failed to protect parents’ rights and did not shield students from “woke” ideologies.

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The list included board members Peggy Jones and Brian Barefoot and St. Lucie County school board member Jack Kelly.

More than 100 people attended Monday’s School Board meeting, after Brown urged NAACP members, church pastors, civic organizations and 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 board members had not openly defended Jones and Barefoot.

“I must ask is it political fear, ideology or simply self-survival?” Brown asked. “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.

Children should be taught racial history in schools, 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 has seen this firsthand,” Holmes said. “My children will never know what we went through, but they can learn.”

Not everyone speaking during the almost 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 who advocate 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.

Board members thanked the community for their support.

“Our public education is under attack,” Barefoot said, adding these 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.

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