Did Johnson County cancel an employee race training session to stop a commissioner from videoing it for the public to see?

Charlotte O’Hara can empathize with a Kansas City-area teacher’s frustrations with “woke” training of public employees on matters of race.

O’Hara, one of the few conservative members of the Johnson County Commission in suburban Kansas City, tried to attend and record an April 3 county employee training session on race – but officials canceled the event and moved it online.

She feels it was expressly to prevent her from recording the training and sharing it with the public – citing text messages she obtained in which an unnamed county employee told one of the presenters that “I think we can outsmart her” in apparently preventing either her participation or her videoing of the event.

“Obviously they wish to hide, in my opinion, behind the veil of secrecy,” O’Hara told The Heartlander this week. “They fought me tooth and nail as far as being able to bring a videographer in to video the event. Then, suddenly on Friday prior to April 3rd, they just cut and ran.”

Moreover, despite her expressed desire to observe the event, county officials didn’t notify her of the online session until late on the morning when it took place.

“They certainly were not cooperative in attempting to allow me to participate in this,” O’Hara said. “They could have informed me; they could have emailed me earlier as soon as they knew (about the scheduled Zoom meeting). And they didn’t. I was excluded.”

Asked what she thought the content of the session was going to be, O’Hara points to scheduled speaker Kristin Henning, author of The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth. 

An online description of her book says:

“Henning explains how discriminatory and aggressive policing has socialized a generation of Black teenagers to fear, resent, and resist the police, and she details the long-term consequences of rac­ism that they experience at the hands of the police and their vigilante surrogates.

“She makes clear that unlike White youth, who are afforded the freedom to test boundaries, experiment with sex and drugs, and figure out who they are and who they want to be, Black youth are seen as a threat to White Amer­ica and are denied healthy adolescent development.

“She examines the criminalization of Black adoles­cent play and sexuality, and of Black fashion, hair, and music. She (explores) the effects of police presence in schools and the depth of police-induced trauma in Black adolescents.”

“Very, very anti-police,” O’Hara says. “Very anti-police. All of the problems of the minority children, especially black adolescents, are because of the police – even resource officers at schools. It’s the woke agenda of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).”

Several divergent explanations have come forth for the cancellation of the “Sunflower Summit” April 3 “between the Johnson County Department of Corrections and the Gault Center, a think-tank specializing in ‘youth justice,’” The Sentinel reported. The explanations include the Gault Center not wanting proprietary information videoed, as well as unspecified threats.

To this point, the only known threat was O’Hara’s intent to video and share the training publicly.

“Simply me being there. Because they did not want me to attend. And why? Because I was asking questions?”

O’Hara may have rankled the establishment by also assembling an army of volunteers to video other county meetings that the county has chosen not to stream online, including public comments to the commission and study sessions and retreats.

She says she also was unwelcome at a January 2022 event on race, oddly being told there was no room for her in the online session.

The Heartlander reached out to county commission Chairman Mike Kelly to ask if he’s concerned that an event may have been canceled to keep its content from taxpayers – and that a county employee appears to have admitted trying to “outsmart” an elected commissioner to avoid public scrutiny.

The Heartlander also asked Kelly what threat or threats might have caused the event’s move to online – and, if that were the case, why an employee would have written about “outsmarting” a commissioner.

O’Hara says DEI should actually stand for “division, exclusion and inequality, because they don’t want to hear the voices that differ from their narrative. 

“And I think that this is proven through the English teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District – how she’s talking about how the school district wishes to hide (woke curricula) from the parents. And I’m seeing a lot of parallels at the county. They do not want this out in the public.”

Caedran Sullivan, an Advanced Placement English teacher, wrote in an op-ed that the district’s children are being “manipulated” and “intimidated” in a curriculum of divisive, “woke” ideology “that is creating a culture of contempt and disrespect.”

“When I read that article,” O’Hara says, “I was just amazed at the parallels – of hiding the information from the parents, and the school district not really wanting the outside world to know what’s really going on. And that is exactly the experience that I am having at the county on critical race theory and DEI.

“No elected official should be treated this way. It’s just unconscionable, in my opinion. And I would have never believed this unless I had directly experienced it.”


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