Laconia School Board members walk out, residents hurl insults at chaotic meeting

The Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 6/17/2021 7:23:36 PM

 The Laconia School Board meeting devolved into chaos Tuesday as some members of the public tried to confront the board over the issue of critical race theory.

Tuesday’s meeting marked the second time this month that a group of residents from Laconia and neighboring towns have come to press their opposition to critical race theory, an academic concept that seeks to explore how laws have been used in certain instances to maintain racism.

School District Superintendent Steve Tucker said earlier in the month that CRT is not being taught in city schools.

Laconia resident Doug Teegarden brought up the topic during a public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting. But board Chairman Heather Lounsbury quickly told Teegarden his comments were out of order because comments needed to be directly related to topics on the board’s agenda. When Teegarden persisted in talking, Lounsbury declared a recess, whereupon most of the board members got up and left the Culinary Arts Dining Room at the Huot Career and Technical Center where the meeting was being held, and walked into another part of the building.

As Lounsbury, together with board members Aaron Hayward, Laura Dunn, Joe Cormier, and Superintendent Steve Tucker were walking out, some in the audience hurled insults at them. One woman hollered, “You’re child abusers,” and “They’re just like Nazis.”

Board members Dawn Johnson, Nick Grenon, and Mal Murray remained in the room, but did not interact with any of the approximately 20 people who were in the audience.

At the beginning of Tuesday's meeting, Lounsbury announced that because of increased number of people attending recent board meetings and the potential for more public input, the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting was being allotted for general public comments, while the second public comment segment later in the meeting would be limited to comments pertaining to matters listed on the agenda for discussion and action by the board. 

Teegarden then told the audience that he was attempting to challenge the board over a post about racial issues that he described as being on the school district’s Facebook page.

Resident Jim Thompson criticized the board for not following its own meeting rules, but he also cautioned Teegarden and others against becoming unruly.

“We should obey their rules as long as they obey their rules,” he said.

But Teegarden shot back, “I don’t work for you. You won’t silence my voice.”

After about 15 minutes, the board reconvened and quickly discussed and then passed changes to policies related to the district’s budget, accepted the resignation of Woodland Heights School Principal Eric Johnson, and approved an outline of protocols for reopening the schools in the fall.

Immediately afterward the meeting adjourned.

Moments later Teegarden went up to Tucker to confront him about the social media posting.

“This was on the district’s Facebook page,” he told the superintendent. “Don’t lie to me.”

Tucker’s response was inaudible. But Teegarden then hollered, “You're a liar!”

Opponents of critical race theory claim that it aggravates and inflames racial divisions and that undermines efforts to unify citizens.

On the other side of the debate are those who believe that people need to be educated about systemic barriers and discrimination people of color and other marginalized groups still face in this country.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative as part of our race and equity project. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 



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