On Tuesday, a packed boardroom of 71 people gathered to address the Virginia Beach School Board in response to a member who ranted about English as a Second Language (ESL) learning in schools.
Board member Victoria Manning, who inevitably helped approve the operating budget for the next school year that included $1 million in ESL funding, slammed the program in a Facebook post last month.
According to the Daily Beast, Manning previously ran a Wokeness Checker website that monitored if schools allegedly taught critical race theory and had books she considered as inappropriate.
One example of literature she adamantly targeted was Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye–which she admitted to have never read.
"VB schools has 300 additional ESL students in the past year," wrote Manning, adding, "Most are from South America."
Manning continued in her Facebook post:
"Our ESL budget has increased over $1 million in two years. Continuing to educate South Americans is not sustainable."
According to WAVY, a common phrase heard throughout Tuesday's board meeting from frustrated attendees was, “todos somos bienvenidos aqui"–a Spanish phrase that translates to "We are all welcome here."
You can watch the local news report, here.
71 people address VBCPS board in response to Manning's English as a second language comment youtu.be
Cooke Elementary principal, Casey Conger, addressed the board, saying:
“At Cooke we have a school culture and climate where everyone is valued and given what they need to be successful and that looks different for every kid and every family."
Among the majority of outraged speakers–including students who signed up to attend the meeting–were a handful of parents, like Annie Palumbo, who vehemently defended Manning.
Addressing her critics, Palumbo said:
“We know what Vicky said. You all know what Vicky said. One day it’s going to come back on all of you.”
Ahead of the meeting, the Virginia Human Rights Commission held a press conference at which Rabbi Israel Zoberman, of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission, said Manning's comment "puts down our entire democracy. We have flourished because we are a land of immigrants."
Fellow Virginia Beach school board member Jessica Owens was in disbelief over her colleague's statement.
She told the news outlet:
“I was shocked and I was disappointed because it didn’t represent our school system."
Some of the comments aimed at an emotionless Manning on the panel can be seen in this news clip.
Critics, supporters of Victoria Manning speak out after controversial post about ESL students youtu.be
The criticism followed on Twitter, where users believed Manning's statement was racist and xenophobic.
Responding to the viral backlash, Manning wrote a statement on her website, saying her previous comment had been taken out of context.
“At the board meeting, it was stated that a majority of new ESL students come from Central America (I mistakenly thought administration said South America since their mask muffled their speech),” said Manning.
“I made a social media post and my political opponents twisted my words into something that I absolutely did not intend."
"I love all people, no matter where they are from."
She further attempted to mitigate the controversy by sharing her own ethnic ancestry.
"I come from a family of immigrants who came to this great country fleeing religious persecution, even having to become indentured servants, and my grandmother was Native American."
"The media and leftist narrative and cancel culture that paints everyone with whom they disagree as racist needs to end."
“I believe it is our duty to provide an appropriate education to ALL students who reside in our city and I do fully support our ESL program and our wonderful ESL teachers,” added Manning.
“There is a teacher shortage and without teachers and proper funding, the current path is unsustainable.”
Following the backlash from Manning's Facebook post, she was removed from a state educational working group she was specifically selected for by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and Virginia State Education Secretary Aimee Guidera.
On Monday, Guidera said:
“We wholly condemn Mrs. Manning’s comments."
"They are completely unacceptable and are in absolute opposition to the Youngkin administration’s commitment to educate and prepare every child in the Commonwealth for success in life."
"Victoria Manning will no longer participate in our working group.”