Cabarrus County school board member Laura Blackwell is facing mounting criticism for her use of the R word during Monday’s meeting of the Board of Education:
Blackwell posted an apology for the comment, which she made about the district’s reopening plans to board chair Rob Walter when she didn’t realize the Zoom meeting was still being broadcast to listeners.
In her apology, Blackwell attributed her use of the degrading term to her “immense passion for the welfare of our children and for serving this community,” then quickly pivoted to victim mode:
I want to take this opportunity to address the very unfortunate incident that took place at last night’s school board meeting. During one of the breaks, my microphone remained on and comments that were made in private suddenly became very public. Whether in private or public, I acknowledge my comments were insensitive and inappropriate. I allowed my immense passion for the welfare of our children and for serving this community to manifest itself through emotion and frustration. Although I never intended to offend anyone, I do realize that my words had the potential to cause pain and reinforce a negative stereotype. I deeply regret my choice of words and I sincerely apologize to anyone that I may have offended.
The last 12 hours have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have received messages that have both questioned my integrity and my character. However, not to be overshadowed by hatred and political posturing, there has been an overwhelming amount of loving support from so many of you that know my heart and believe in the work that we are trying to accomplish together. Because of each of you, tomorrow morning I will dust myself off and get right back to serving this community, our students, our amazing faculty and staff members and this county with the same level of passion as I had on day one.
In response to Blackwell’s offensive speech, the Special Olympics of Cabarrus County released a statement that noted the harm caused by stereotyping people with developmental and intellectual disabilities:
Many listeners have noted that Chair Rob Walter agreed with the essence of Blackwell’s comments and did not offer any pushback whatsoever on her use of a word that educators have worked hard to erase from educational settings.
Walter, who is currently running for reelection, has said the board will review the incident and related policies and will deal with the matter at the next school board meeting if any further action is required.
That meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 5.