Kansas governor calls on education commissioner to resign for discriminatory remark
Kansas education commissioner Randy Watson said something “inappropriate” about American Indians during a virtual conference earlier this year, a state school board member said. The board will meet Friday to talk about the comment in a closed door meeting. (Screen Capture from Kansas State Department of Education video)

Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday the state’s education commissioner must resign after making a discriminatory remark and urged the Kansas State Board of Education to work on addressing problems raised by the comments.

Randy Watson, the commissioner of education since 2014, was speaking during a virtual conference earlier this month when he made an insensitive statement about American Indians. A social media post quoting Watson couldn’t be verified.

The governor said the state of Kansas and the state Board of Education must take seriously commentary by officials that expressed insensitivity.

“There is no question that Randy Watson must resign his position immediately, given his comments last week,” Kelly said. “However, the Board of Education must also focus on ways to address these issues going forward.”

Kelly said the state should build on “this moment to celebrate diversity and ensure that all Kansas school children are treated with dignity and respect.”

The state Board of Education scheduled for Friday a closed-door meeting to discuss an “inappropriate” comment by Watson. It is considered a personnel matter, which allows that conversation to occur in executive session. If the board dismissed Watson, that action would be affirmed in public session.

Board members Ann Mah, of Topeka, and Jim McNiece, of Wichita, said they wanted to learn more about what Watson said during a virtual conference that occurred Feb. 14-15.

Mah couldn’t provide Watson’s exact words, but she said they would be considered “inappropriate” and out of character for the commissioner.

On Wednesday, Kansas Reflector submitted a Kansas Open Records Act request for a video of Watson that would shed light on the controversy.


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