Evans: Racist claims lack details for investigation

North Kitsap School District superintendent Laurynn Evans says that claims of racism in the district are “impossible” to follow up on because no details have been provided.

Two emails to the North Kitsap Herald made those claims.

One email says the school board and Evans treated Suquamish Tribal Council members with disrespect in one of their recent meetings. It also claims that the Latino community is upset that many complaints are not addressed in a timely manner. And it says Robert Harris, president of the NAACP in Bremerton, wants to hold a town hall meeting in Poulsbo in May.

Another email says Evans recently spoke to the Kingston Community Advisory Council. An audience member asked what the district’s policy was concerning staff writing racist comments on social media. The email also says Hispanic parents held a town hall meeting, and the NKSD did not show up.

Regarding the second email, Evans said the district simply was not invited to the town hall. As for the alleged racist social media post — of which no evidence was provided — the school district has no control over what staff does on their personal time. “I don’t think legally that would end well,” she said, adding people have First Amendment rights. “Individuals can post whatever they want on social media.”

Evans said the district does encourage staff to “reflect the ideals of ethics of the district” because they are often held to a higher standard than the general public. But that’s not enforceable.

As to criticism that she did not apologize for the post, Evans said she couldn’t do that because no evidence was ever reported that there was a racist post. “I still do not know” what the alleged post was and who did it because there was no specific report so she couldn’t follow-up. Evans added that union employees can’t be disciplined without due process, and that can’t be done without specific evidence.

As for the first email, Evans said the district wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. It only wanted to talk to the tribe about canceling a district event for tribal high school seniors that is duplicated by the tribe anyway. She said the district is doing everything it can as it faces up to $7 million in budget cuts. But after talking to the tribe about it, the recognition will continue.

The tribe released the following statement about the incident.

“The Native American Graduation Honoring is long standing tradition of the North Kitsap School District’s Indian Education Program planned in cooperation with the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes.

“We disagreed with the district’s proposal to cancel the ceremony due to budget challenges. We are relieved to hear that NKSD has reconsidered and will be hosting the event this year that honors the success of our tribal students and supports the government-to-government relationship between the district and the tribes.”

As for a town hall with Harris, Evans said she has been talking to him about that. She didn’t mention any specific incidents, only that they want to ensure it’s a positive, productive meeting for all involved.

Harris did not return a call or email for comment.

Evans said one person seems to be behind most of the complaints, and that person has stirred up others, but that the district is not hearing complaints from students or their families. The district has not received a surge in reports that would suggest racism is a huge problem.

“I don’t doubt racism exists between students, and when we find out we will act,” she said, adding the district encourages students and families to report any problems immediately. “That gives us the best opportunity to respond and provide better outcomes.”

Evans said the district’s goal is to make “everyone feel like they belong. If you see something say something. We’re here because we care about kids.”