Pete Candland

Pete Candland, Gainesville District supervisor.

A joint meeting between the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and the county school board last week erupted into a shouting match over an implicit bias presentation.

The meeting began with presentations about the school division’s revenue projections and 2021 budget outlook. But about 30 minutes in, the agenda moved to an “implicit bias presentation” led by Maria Burgos, the division’s supervisor of global learning and culturally responsive instruction.

Before Burgos could start the presentation, Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland jumped in.

“I guess I was surprised to see this on the agenda,” Candland said. “I know I asked about this at the last combined meeting and was basically shot down on getting any additional information. I’m wondering just as a start, what is the purpose behind this presentation?”

School Board Chair Babur Lateef explained that a number of school board members and Woodbridge Supervisor Margaret Franklin had been asking what the division does with regard to bias training and cultural competency.

Loree Williams, the Woodbridge District representative to the school board, said that adding the presentation to the meeting’s agenda was her specific request. She said that since 2019 she had wanted to hold a joint meeting in which implicit bias was discussed for the benefit of both boards.

“We’re all elected leaders in a majority-minority county, so I thought it would be very wise of us to learn about implicit bias,” Williams told Candland. “The state of Virginia and the school division has taken a very progressive stance on following anti-racism policy training. … Really to help us better understand how we should be looking at things,how our own biases affect our own judgments and for an educational purpose.”

Candland called the idea “insulting” to the board of supervisors and “highly inappropriate.” Williams and fellow school board member Lillie Jessie said it wasn’t about the board of supervisors specifically, but said that everyone has some implicit bias they should be aware of. Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson then shot back at Williams, bringing up a Department of Justice complaint Williams and other school board members filed in 2017 in a dispute with the supervisors over funding of new school construction.

“Frankly, Ms. Williams, I have a hard time taking you serious that you truly want to work together with people who don’t look like you or think politically like you, when you file a DOJ complaint about me because of a vote that I took and I proudly stand by to help our students,” Lawson said. Lawson said she would pack up and leave, before Board Chair Ann Wheeler interjected to say that she had gone on too long.

Soon enough, all three Republicans on the board of supervisors – Candland, Lawson and Coles Supervisor Yesli Vega – were outside the meeting room, shooting a video that would be quickly posted to Candland’s Facebook page.

The presentation went on for the remaining supervisors and the school board, with Burgos presenting techniques for recognizing implicit bias, historical assumptions about groups, and behavioral and social biases that don’t involve race or ethnicity.

Candland broadcast his view from outside the meeting room.

“During this critical time of the global pandemic, kids having issues at home, concerns about funding our schools moving forward, they decided to take this time to talk about implicit bias, critical race theory, talking about how the Board of County Supervisors needs to accept this training on this concept of implicit bias,” Candland said in the video. “We should be using this time to talk about the critical issues facing the kids in Prince William County, and I think it's an absolute disgrace that the school board took time and resources.”

School Board Chair Babur Lateef said the training, similar to what he needs to complete every year to maintain hospital privileges for his ophthalmology practice, was on the agenda that had been sent to all in attendance over a week before the meeting. He didn’t hear anything from any of the Republican supervisors about it before the meeting.

“Especially the two veteran members of the supervisors, they know how this works. If you see a public notice 10 days in advance, you know to reach out to either Chair Wheeler or myself,” Lateef told InsideNoVa. “They just wanted to grandstand in front of the cameras about this.”

Ultimately, though, Lateef said it wouldn’t further damage the relationship between the two boards. The arrival of budget season, instead, will trump last week’s fracas.

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

Tags

Reporter

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

(15) comments

Halyork

What a dump PWC has become. Filled with these marxists and communists, throw in some self loathing nut job like Wheeler. Incredible. I suppose these people putting on the presentation and encouraged by the racialists on the school board are referencing their own racism and hatred, mainly directed at white people. The country was founded by white English speaking Christians of European descent. Get over it! You can try and erase and rewrite and propagandize as much history as you want too, in order to fit you’re fraudulent narrative, but it’ll never change the facts.

Allen Muchnick

@Halyork,

Your repeated hateful, demeaning, and ignorant comments speak volumes about you.

Regardless of their political party, all duly elected officials deserve respect for their commitment to public service and for earning the votes of a majority (or at least a plurality) of the electorate.

Constantly disparaging your fellow citizens who merely disagree with you is despicable, and this lack of basic decency and respect is a sad reflection of the current political culture.

It's long past time for the PW BOCS to abandon the partisan bickering and govern together.

Halyork

I give you an A- for your democrat party talking points. I think you could have done slightly better. The truth hurts sometimes.

Allen Muchnick

One can always do better. Whether it's worth the effort here is a separate matter.

Iwouldntgiveabean

Just curious as to when you believe the country was founded and how many countries settled in America by that time.

Allen Muchnick

"The country was founded by white English speaking Christians of European descent. Get over it! You can try and erase and rewrite and propagandize as much history as you want too, in order to fit you’re fraudulent narrative, but it’ll never change the facts."

Talk about rewriting history and making up facts! White, English-speaking Christians began massively invading North America some 400 years ago, using violence and genocide to decimate and displace the indigenous peoples who had lived here successfully for thousands of years, and importing African-American slaves to perform back-breaking labor as their personal property.

Citizen52

Implicit bias comes from the Critical Race Theory. It is only a theory. In actuality, bias comes from life experiences and is not something inherent.

Iwouldntgiveabean

Gravity is a theory. We think it applies everywhere uniformly, but that is not the case.

InsideCommenter

Your background shapes your bias, look at old cartoons they were full of racist tropes. When you spent your whole life privileged equality will feel like oppression.

Citizen52

Thanks to Bean and Inside for further making my point.

InsideCommenter

The reality is that the VA GOP is becoming increasingly desperate rather than appeal to people who aren't their usual demographic, by moderating their stances being more inclusive and focuses on bread and butter kitchen table issues, they continue to go for culture war nonsense. Once all these bigoted boomers die off they'll be in the dust bin of history.

Halyork

You sound like quite the political pundit. Telling your political opponent you need to be more like me to win, doesn’t seem to be a persuasive argument. It sounds more like something you have engrained in your head from staring at your cell phone all day.

Citizen52

I do think walking out is extreme but I don’t think they’re desperate. CRT, if presented as a theory, doesn’t hurt anyone. You, however, have shown your inherent bias toward boomers. There are plenty of older people who aren’t bigoted and plenty of younger people who are bigoted.

Brad

An implicit bias presentation assumes that people are biased. I simply don't by the basic premise. The members were right to walk out. It's a waste of time when there are clearly much more pressing matters.

Allen Muchnick

EVERYONE has biases. People don't know what they don't know. It's long past time that we LISTEN and seek to understand the perspectives and concerns of our fellow citizens.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.