Outrage over Lawrence settlement in alleged racial comments case

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Parents and community members disrupted a Board of Education meeting on Monday night following revelations that the board members agreed to a settlement with a teacher accused of making racial comments in class.

The case dates back to mid-October, when Lawrence school leaders placed South Middle School teacher Chris Cobb on paid administrative leave.

RELATED: Lawrence teacher accused of racist comments resigns

The accused teacher resigned late in November.

According to documents requested and obtained by 41 Action News, the teacher will still receive pay and benefits until the end of the school year. The district will also not release any information about the alleged comments to the State Board of Education.

In exchange, the teacher will not file a lawsuit or take any other legal action against the district.

In October, parents told 41 Action News the teacher is a 6th grade social studies instructor at South.

Lawrence Public Schools spokesperson Julie Boyle declined comment to 41 Action News as to why the settlement was pursued.

The station also tried to interview Cobb at his home on Monday night, but he declined.

However, Cobb released a statement to media saying he was "unjustly accused" of making the comments.

Cobb also wrote that the source of the allegations has "a well documented history of falsehoods."

The South Middle School teacher also went on to say "in today's environment where perception is reality and political correctness trumps the truth, my continued presence in the classroom would only serve to inflame the intended divisions caused by my detractors."

A few short minutes after the Board of Education meeting began on Monday night, a group of parents quickly overtook the event and began shouting at board members.

"Y'all stayed here and protected Mr. Cobb!" yelled one parent.

"He gets to go around and tell our black children that 50 years ago, they weren't considered human?" shouted another.

Some parents detailed the alleged racist remarks they say Cobb said to students in class.

"That whites were superior to blacks," explained Monique Richardson, who said Cobb taught her student in a social studies class. "That because of the color of my skin, I'll never make the amount of money that any other race makes."

Richardson, who helped organize Monday's sit-in, said the board should have fired Cobb instead of letting him resign.

"We need answers. Like, why is he able to still work with our kids?" she said. "Outraged. There's no other word for it."

The sit-in lasted several hours.

While several Board of Education members adjourned the meeting shortly after the protest began and left the building, three members stayed into the night to hear the complaints.

"Obviously, we have some pretty upset individuals," said Board of Education member Marcel Harmon. "As board members, we're going to try and listen and move forward."

Several of the protesters argued with Lawrence Superintendent Kyle Hayden outside the meeting room as he tried to leave the building.

Around a dozen Lawrence police officers showed up after the protest began.

During the meeting, protesters were heard calling for the resignation of Hayden in response to the settlement.

Other parents said they hoped to see the settlement overturned.

"We're not going to sit down and lay down," explained Richardson. "These are our children."

Parents said they planned to continue protesting at future Board of Education meetings.

Several board members said they would possibly plan an advisory board or special meeting to address the alleged racial comments made by Cobb.

The full Lawrence School District Board of Education meeting can be found here. Warning, there is profanity throughout. 

Hayden and Lawrence Board of Education Vice President Shannon Kimball provided separate statements to 41 Action News. They can be read in full below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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