Exclusive: Documents reveal Critical Race Theory battle between Lakota leader and board member

Lakota Board of Education member Darbi Boddy, shown here being sworn on to the board in January, has sharply criticized Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller and claims he is being unresponsive to her request for more information and his personal definition of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Boddy says her election to the board was in large part due to her publicly stance against CRT lessons and her allegations such lessons are being taught in Lakota schools. Lakota officials, however, have contended CRT is not taught to students. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Lakota Board of Education member Darbi Boddy, shown here being sworn on to the board in January, has sharply criticized Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller and claims he is being unresponsive to her request for more information and his personal definition of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Boddy says her election to the board was in large part due to her publicly stance against CRT lessons and her allegations such lessons are being taught in Lakota schools. Lakota officials, however, have contended CRT is not taught to students. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

A Lakota school board member, who is the censure target of a public petition campaign, recently blasted the district’s superintendent as “patronizing and dismissive” in his response to her questions about alleged Critical Race Theory lessons in schools.

According to emails obtained by the Journal-News’ public records request, Lakota Board of Education member Darbi Boddy claims Superintendent Matt Miller is not responding to her queries about Critical Race Theory (CRT).

In a March 7 email, Boddy, who has alleged CRT lessons are taught in the district since joining the board in January, asks Miller for his definition of CRT.

Boddy also copied fellow Lakota school board members on her email and subsequent emails.

Lakota officials contend CRT lessons are not taught to its 17,000 students. District officials have previously noted any lessons that may be construed by some as similar in some fashion to CRT are instead those Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons required of public schools by the Ohio Department of Education.

Boddy has repeatedly challenged Miller in public board meetings regarding claims of CRT or SEL classroom lessons.

She has questioned his impartiality — and that of other Lakota district administration officials — in being candid regarding the alleged teaching of the topic or any investigation into concerns raised by some school parents about the topic.

And earlier this week the Journal-News was the first to report Boddy is the target of an online petition urging her fellow school board members to censure her.

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“Given what is on the table, I think it is imperative that the board and the community get a very thorough take on your personal understanding of critical race theory,” Boddy writes.

“I hope you see this as I do as an obvious prerequisite to discussions with you on this topic,” stated Boddy.

ExploreLakota school board rift over alleged Critical Race Theory in classes continues

In his reply email, Miller states: “If there is a parent coming to you with a matter that they believe is CRT, please let me know. It’s our job to listen to parents and investigate complaints.”

“There’s board policy that shows the steps and the process for matters like the one you mentioned. Please let me know what dispute the administration has with the parents you are referring to so it can be dealt with. We are serving in roles to provide the best possible education for all students. If there is an issue, let’s be problem solvers and address it,” wrote Miller.

In Boddy’s same day reply to Miller’s email, she presses the superintendent to be more specific asking: “In your understanding/opinion: What is CRT? How does CRT manifest itself K through 12 schools? Is CRT a good thing? What are some of the ways CRT is taught? Who are its advocates, particularly as it relates to educating K through 12? (Please give names of individuals and organizations as they apply).”

“I hope you see this as I do as an obvious prerequisite to discussions with you on this topic. If no one else on the board is interested in getting this from you then consider this my formal request,” wrote Boddy.

Three days later on March 10, after Boddy again requests a response, Miller replied via email by stating: “Please refer to my previous email in the thread below about working collaboratively on your concern or any parents concern. Your most recent questions aren’t applicable. We have clear policy on file regarding complaints and concerns. We can certainly meet if you would like to discuss further.”

To which Boddy responded on March 11: “This communication from you is patronizing and dismissive.”

“It is very clear that your understanding of critical race theory is front and center in a controversy between your administration and parents of this district. You have represented that CRT is not in our schools. I have been elected impart to find out if that is true or not. Your understanding of the subject is a natural starting point.”

“I must insist on your cooperation Matt.”

“Certainly, you understand that to dismiss such a simple and straightforward request on this subject from a duly elected member of the Board of Education, would at the very least, not speak well to your ability to act in any leadership or fact-finding capacity that puts you in the middle of a board member or even a parent’s inquiries.”

“I expect you to either make an effort to answer this question or show me where it is written that I either not entitled to it, or that you are somehow not obligated to answer it. But it is unacceptable that you dismiss me,” said Boddy.

Lakota Board of Education Lynda O’Connor then messaged both Boddy and Miller later on March 11, stating: “Darbi: Sometimes emails, texts, etc aren’t conducive to effective communication. In person discussion might be more productive. Please let me know if you’d like to set that up at some point.”

To which Boddy replied shortly after: “Not when I need written material to have a meeting in the first place.”

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Under Ohio law, local school boards — composed of publicly elected individual members — hire superintendents and oversee the superintendents’ operational management of public school systems.

Boddy told the Journal-News this week “as a sitting member of the board, I sent Matt an email asking him for his definition, and he refused to do it.”

“Parents and the district should not be talking past each other like this. The fact that Matt is refusing to define the theory, so parents have some way to measure what they are seeing is suspicious to these parents and I have no answer for them because it is suspect to me as well. You can’t tell people that something doesn’t exist if you can’t define it.”

Miller told the Journal-News Monday: “CRT is a post-secondary, higher education, graduate level course offering (and) K-12 public schools in Ohio follow the Ohio Department of Education’s state standards. CRT is not a part of those standards. Her initial questions are not relevant to Lakota Schools.”

“When an issue or question like this comes up from a parent, we handle such cases at the teacher, building, and then district-level. The district has policies and mechanisms in place when a parent has any concern about curriculum.”

“My email responses and Mrs. O’Connor’s email responses to Mrs. Boddy clearly address wanting to meet with her and work together on what should be our focus and joint goals for the betterment of the students we serve at Lakota Schools,” said Miller.

He said Tuesday no meeting has been scheduled between himself and Boddy.

Boddy also said no meeting has been scheduled.

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