Watson allegedly made insensitive statements about American Indians
TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday the state’s education commissioner must resign after making a discriminatory remark and urged the Kansas State Board of Education to work on addressing problems raised by the comments.
Randy Watson, the commissioner of education since 2014, was speaking during a virtual conference earlier this month when he made an insensitive statement about American Indians. A social media post quoting Watson couldn’t be verified.
The governor said the state of Kansas and the state Board of Education must take seriously commentary by officials that expressed insensitivity.
“There is no question that Randy Watson must resign his position immediately, given his comments last week,” Kelly said. “However, the Board of Education must also focus on ways to address these issues going forward.”
Kelly said the state should build on “this moment to celebrate diversity and ensure that all Kansas school children are treated with dignity and respect.”
The state Board of Education scheduled for Friday a closed-door meeting to discuss an “inappropriate” comment by Watson. It is considered a personnel matter, which allows that conversation to occur in executive session. If the board dismissed Watson, that action would be affirmed in public session.
Board members Ann Mah, of Topeka, and Jim McNiece, of Wichita, said they wanted to learn more about what Watson said during a virtual conference that occurred Feb. 14-15.
Mah couldn’t provide Watson’s exact words, but she said they would be considered “inappropriate” and out of character for the commissioner.
On Wednesday, Kansas Reflector submitted a Kansas Open Records Act request for a video of Watson that would shed light on the controversy.
Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.
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The Kansas commissioner of public education apologized Tuesday for telling attendees of an online education conference that when growing up he attempted to convince people visiting the state they should be more afraid of dangerous American Indians than violent tornadoes.