32963 Homepage

Want to purchase reprints of your favorite 32963 or photos?

Copies of Vero Beach 32963 can be obtained at the following locations:


Our office HQ: (located at 4855 North A1A)
1. Corey's Pharmacy
2. 7-Eleven

(South A1A)
3. Major Real Estate Offices


1. Vero Beach Book

2. Classic Car Wash
3. Divine Animal
4. Sunshine Furniture

5. Many Medical

School Board: No choice but to repeal race policy

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of June 1, 2023)

Three years after the School Board voted unanimously to address institutional racism in the district by adopting a Racial Equity Policy – a bold move celebrated by local educators and Black community leaders – the policy has been repealed.

By the current board. In another unanimous – albeit it 3-0, not 5-0 – vote.

“I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to do it, but we really weren’t given any choice,” School Board Chair Peggy Jones said after the equity policy was rescinded at a special-call meeting last week. “I didn’t want to put the district at risk of being targeted by the state again.”

Both Jones and fellow board member Brian Barefoot already are among the incumbents Gov. Ron DeSantis has targeted for defeat in the 2024 elections – because they supported districtwide mask mandates during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This time, Jones and Barefoot, along with Vice Chair Teri Barenborg, succumbed to DeSantis’ wishes by repealing an equity policy that included race-related terminology a year-old state law has made illegal.

But Jones was successful in replacing the now-controversial policy with a new one she authored with input from other board members, including Jackie Rosario and Gene Posca, both of whom expressed opposition to her proposal and did not attend the meeting at which it was unanimously passed.

There is no mention of racism in the board’s new “Safe, Respectful and Inclusive Education Policy,” which was generically worded to avoid any potential conflicts with the new state law.

But Jones believes the new policy embraces the same sentiment, principles and mission as the one it replaces – without the verboten verbiage.

“It basically says the same thing, just using different words,” Jones said. “We will continue to do our best to make things equitable, so every child who comes to this district has a chance to succeed.

“We need to continue our efforts and implement strategies to help the kids who need it, especially from kindergarten through the third grade, which are pivotal a student’s academic success,” she added. “That’s what we were doing under the Racial Equity Policy. That’s what we’ll continue to do under this new policy.

“In practice, nothing will change.”

Jones said the absence of language that specifically addresses racism doesn’t significantly weaken the new policy because “everyone knows the intent.”

Besides, she added, “This was the best we could do in these turbulent times.”

Local NAACP President Tony Brown, who is a member of a court-appointed joint work group trying to resolve the issues that has kept the school district under a federal desegregation order since 1967, opposed the repeal of the racial equity policy.

But he accepted the compromise offered by Jones’ proposal, which actually reads more like a pledge than a policy.

“I don’t like the fact that the Racial Equity Policy had to be repealed, because there was nothing wrong with it, but I understand why these three board members did what they did,” Brown said. “What choice did they have?

“As much as I would’ve wanted to see this district fight to keep the policy, this wasn’t the right battlefield,” he added. “I didn’t want to see our superintendent wearing prison stripes, so with what’s happening in this state right now, we needed something.”

The terminology in the new policy isn’t as “definitive” as what was included in the original policy, Brown said, but he trusts Jones to honor its intent.

“We’re showing Tallahassee that we have three board members who care enough to do what’s right for all children in our district,” Brown said. “In the meantime, we’ll continue to do what we do.”

The repeal of the board’s Racial Equity Policy became necessary after the Florida Department of Education discovered a line addressing the need to address “institutional racism” and its impact on the academic achievement of black students.

That terminology violated the law – more commonly known as House Bill 7 – that DeSantis signed in April 2022.

The state notified the district last fall, and the board responded with a corrected version of the policy, only to get no response from the state.

Then local Moms For Liberty chair Jennifer Pippin got involved, publicly complaining that the School Board was delaying action on the Racial Equity Policy. She eventually took her gripe to Tallahassee, sending an email to the governor’s office and education department.

She did not mention in her email, however, that Jones, Barenborg and Barefoot had agreed to postpone taking action because they wanted to simultaneously repeal the existing policy and replace it with one that complied with the new law.

At last week’s meeting, Pippin again whined about the length of time the board needed to repeal the Racial Equity Policy, despite knowing the vote was about to take place.

She also voiced her opposition to the new policy, arguing that it wasn’t necessary because the district has other policies to address racism – and because there’s no racism in the district.

Barefoot acknowledged that the new policy is a “summary of all the others” that address equity and inclusion for all students, but he defended it, saying it’s necessary to have one over-arching policy that parents can easily find.

He also said replacing the old policy with a new one sends an important message to the local Black community – that its children matter, too.

“I wish it wasn’t necessary,” Barefoot said, “but in this time and place, it is.”