Politics & Government

School board member: Attending Wake schools made my kids ‘anti-racist, anti-misogynist’

A Wake County school board member’s public comments that attending diverse schools made her children “anti-racist, anti-misogynist” and “anti-homophobic” is drawing both praise and criticism.

On Tuesday, Christine Kushner was among eight Wake school board members who were sworn in for two-year terms and who gave prepared remarks. During her speech at the school board meeting, Kushner touted the benefits her two now adult children received when they were students in the Wake school system.

“They are to me the greatest examples of products of Wake County schools,” Kushner said. “They were in diverse, integrated, rigorous educational programs and they are now anti-racist, anti-misogynist, anti-homophobic fully formed adults out in the world pursuing their dreams, and that is because of the Wake County Public School System.”

Kushner’s children attended magnet schools, including Enloe High School in east Raleigh, which are typically located in higher-poverty areas. Magnets offer unique programs to attract applicants from more affluent areas.

Based on all that public schools have done for her and her family, Kushner said Tuesday that she’s committed to work hard for every child, every day.

Kushner was elected to the board in 2011 in an expensive, hard-fought campaign in which Democrats regained the majority on the school board. One of the issues they fought for was to restore diversity as a factor in the student assignment policy, although school board member Keith Sutton acknowledged during his speech Tuesday that the focus now is more on equity than diversity.

Some parents praised Kushner for her remarks.

“This right here is an AMAZING woman to have fighting for our kids!” tweeted Leslie Dombalis, a Raleigh mother.

But other parents criticized Kushner for her comments.

“IMO, an incredibly bizarre and condescending statement to make as a SB rep,” tweeted Allison Backhouse, a longtime critic of the school board. “Then again, I expect nothing less from this woman.”

Backhouse complained in another tweet that Kushner’s children benefited from magnet schools while students in suburban schools didn’t get amazing courses and faced the threat of reassignment and converting to a year-round calendar.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.