Parents and teachers protest new member at Onslow County School Board meeting

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 10:32 PM EST
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ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Dozens of parents and teachers showed up at The Onslow County Board of Education meeting Tuesday night to protest a new board member.

Voters elected Eric Whitfield as a school board member last week during the General Election. Whitfield was fired from his job as a private school teacher for using a racial slur during his campaign, and the Onslow County Republican Party did not endorse him.

However, Whitfield still won a seat over three incumbent board members and others on the ballot. Parents and teachers have expressed frustration with his election and are asking him to step down.

At Tuesday’s Onslow School Board meeting, parents could not speak because the board’s rules do not allow public comment on issues they have no control over.

In a candidates forum, before the General Election, Eric Whitfield read a statement. He said, “The Republican Party’s position is do not vote for Eric Whitfield. So, I have to say a really strange thing that you’ve probably never heard from a candidate before. Please do not vote for me.”

But election results show more than 27,000 Onslow County residents did vote for Whitfield. Many parents who did not vote for him are now working to remove Whitfield from the school board.

Kever Clark said other candidates should have won the seat, and Onslow residents will now have to deal with Whitfield. Clark said, "You get what you deserve when you don’t look at people for their credentials and what they’ve done for our students.

The President of the Onslow Association of Educators, Anne Hardinger, said the group may not be able to make changes now, but they’re watching. “We’ll be watching, and we will be taking note, and if we needed to do something further, we would,” said Hardinger.

Another parent interviewed said the board members should be setting a positive example for students and doesn’t believe the new board member does that.

Holly Connor said, “The example that he’s setting for our students, it’s definitely not something I want for my children.” One county educator blames voters and said they elected Whitfield and put teachers and students in this current position.

“If you voted a straight Republican ticket in this election, you must also shoulder the blame for these unfortunate circumstances,” said Onslow County Teacher Nefatina Everhart.

Everhart created a petition to remove Whitfield from the board. But in a statement, the Onslow County Board of Education said there’s nothing they can do. They say there is no legal proceeding for a local school board to remove one of its members.

Everhart said they must pressure state legislators in Raleigh to create a law specifically to recall Eric Whitfield from the Onslow County Board of Education.

Parent Holly Connor questions specific rules to remove Whitfield. She said, “Why isn’t an infraction to those, the code of ethics, and the seven governing policies, why aren’t those grounds for removal from a board of education?”

But Eric Whitfield insists he won’t consider resigning until at least June – when the new budget is introduced. Whitfield told WITN that he believes being removed from the school board through a state process would actually benefit his career.

He said the process would give him more statewide name recognition.

In a statement, the Onslow Board of Education said that their mission is to provide education for a diverse makeup of our community. They added that individual comments suggesting an opinion other than its dedication to diverse education do not represent the Onslow County School Board.

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