Laconia school board member says anti-bias training promotes racist ideology

  • Laconia School Board member Dawn Johnson, right, is shown at Tuesday's School Board meeting, minutes after fellow board member Joe Cormier, left, read a statement condemning her for a letter in The Daily Sun in which she accused the School District of allowing the promotion of a racist ideology during a teacher training session earlier this year. Cormier called Johnson's allegation false. Michael Mortensen—Laconia Daily Sun

Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 4/9/2021 11:17:09 AM

For the second time in recent months Laconia School Board member Dawn Johnson has been publicly denounced by a fellow board member.

School Board member Joe Cormier criticized Johnson on Tuesday for her recent letter published in The Laconia Daily Sun which, Cormier said, falsely accused the School District of “propagating racism in our schools.”

“School Board member Johnson charges that the School Board, the administration, the teachers and staff are all guilty of this,” Cormier said. “This accusation is completely and utterly false.”

In a letter which was published in The Daily Sun on March 24, Johnson condemned School District administrators for a teacher training session which Johnson asserted was held to promote so-called critical race theory which, she said, aims to “convince young, impressionable minds that whiteness is inherently racist.” She argued that supporters of the theory believe that “if you are white and not a minority you are racist.”

School Superintendent Steve Tucker said in a letter which appeared in The Daily Sun on April 1 that the purpose of the workshop was to further teachers’ and other staff members’ understanding of diversity and inclusion, and that Johnson’s letter misrepresented the purpose and content of the session.

The letter, which was co-signed by the presidents of the two unions which represent teachers and paraeducators, denied Johnson’s assertion that the workshop was held to advance the concept of critical race theory and further rejected Johnson’s assertion that by holding the session the district was advancing “child abuse, parental abuse, and general abuse of our society.”

Tuesday marked the first time the board had met since Johnson’s letter was published.

Johnson denied Cormier’s accusation that she had not reached out to administrators or members of the School Board regarding her concerns about the training session.

She said her recommendation that the issue of the training sessions be brought to the School Board for discussion was brushed aside as unnecessary.

“When I was asked and I was told ‘No’ why would I bang my head against a wall,” she said, arguing she believed that discussing the matter with school officials after the fact was pointless. ”You guys have all gone after me multiple times,” she said, referring to other members of the board.

In December, the other six board members condemned Johnson for a social media posting of an election conspiracy article which included an anti-Semitic cartoon.

Critics, including members of the city’s Jewish community, denounced the posting. Johnson apologized for the post, explaining that she was unaware of its entirety, including the cartoon, at the time she reposted it.

At the School Board meeting held four days after the controversy erupted, every other board member urged Johnson to resign, an idea Johnson flat-out rejected.

On Tuesday Johnson said she has concerns about what she called “major league questionable pieces” of the January training session. She did not elaborate.

Johnson said Cormier’s assertion that she had not followed the proper channels was false.

“You are incorrect in your ‘facts,’” she said.

The only other board member who commented on the matter Tuesday was Aaron Hayward, who said he agreed with Cormier’s statement.

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