Petition seeks Julia Perkins’ recall from School Board

Published 5:32 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Candice Vande Brake, a parent who’s spoken repeatedly against Critical Race Theory at recent Isle of Wight County School Board meetings, has started a petition on to recall Windsor District board member Julia Perkins over the issue.

The theory, as previously reported, refers to the study of how American law has perpetuated social, economic and political inequalities among minority groups, not necessarily exclusive to race. Per an American Bar Association definition used by Vande Brake in an email to The Smithfield Times, Critical Race Theory rejects arguments that confine racism to intentional acts by a few “bad apples” and argues meritocracy or “colorblindness” can still result in disparities in the experiences of whites versus people of color.

Isle of Wight school officials have repeatedly said Critical Race Theory — often abbreviated CRT — is not being taught in the school division. The training sessions its new coordinator of equity and inclusion, Kiyaana Cox-Jones, has been leading are strictly for teachers, Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said, to familiarize them with the equity terminology being used at the state level, and to give them another lens to look at each student’s needs.

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But Vande Brake believes otherwise.

To support her belief that CRT is indeed influencing Isle of Wight County’s curriculum, Vande Brake obtained a copy of a February 2019 letter from the Virginia Department of Education to all division superintendents via a Freedom of Information Act request. In that letter, State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane references the department’s statewide EdEquityVA initiative and recommends school leaders read “White Fragility” by anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo, a term referring to the defensive moves white people make when challenged racially, and “Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education” by Edward Taylor, David Gillborn and Gloria Ladson-Billings.

“I believe they are integrating it with the equity program,” Vande Brake said.

Vande Brake’s petition accuses Perkins of “failing her district’s children by hiding and not asking the questions she was hired to ask by the people she represents.”

“I emailed her numerous times and she hasn’t responded,” Vande Brake said. “I feel like she is not doing her duty by finding out answers for her people.”

As of Monday, 41  people had signed Vande Brake’s petition.

Perkins, a retired Windsor High School teacher, has served on the county’s School Board since 2011. Her current term will expire Dec. 31, 2023.

Per state law, a petition seeking to remove an elected official from his or her office must state “with reasonable accuracy and detail the grounds or reasons for removal” and must be signed by a number of registered Windsor District voters equal to at least 10% of the 1,716 votes cast in 2019, when Perkins was last re-elected, “under penalties of perjury.” In Perkins’ case, that means at least 172 signatures.

In Virginia, recall petitions don’t result in a new election but rather a trial. If and when the needed number of signatures is reached, the petition can be filed in Isle of Wight County’s Circuit Court. There, it will go to a judge, who will decide if a trial is warranted based on the merits of its claims.

Perkins was unable to be reached for comments on the petition by press time.