DeKalb school board member accused of making racist remarks

Joyce Morley explained that video from the emotionally-charged board meeting shows her saying the word 'rights' and not 'whites'

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Joyce Morley, a DeKalb County school board member, said those accusing her of making racially insensitive comments during a recent meeting are mishearing what she actually said.

During an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday, Morley explained that video from the emotionally-charged board meeting shows her saying the word “rights” and not “whites” when discussing the school district’s plans to reopen schools.

“If I had ever said anything different I would take responsibility,” said Morley, who is Black. She called it slanderous for anyone to suggest otherwise.

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But fellow board members and outraged parents insist the video clearly shows Morley suggesting that a return to in-person classes would be difficult in part because “whites” would disregard COVID-19 safety procedures.

A photo of the Dekalb School Board including Joyce Morley (bottom left) via AJC.

During the Monday meeting in question, Cheryl Watson-Harris, DeKalb schools superintendent proposed that students and staff return to in-person learning as early as October, but on a part-time basis. Her recommendation would be contingent on a significant decline in COVID-19 cases.

Several board members, including Morley, were vocal in their harsh criticism of the plan. During a lengthy speech, Morley opposed the idea of students returning to schools before 2021.

She went on to say that the same parents that wanted to quickly reopen the schools would be the ones that would be noncompliant with rules such as wearing masks, were they put into place, and were likely to bring up their “right” not to wear one.

No one is contesting that part of Morley’s monologue.

“Because I guarantee you there’s going to be those who are gonna be defiant. You give an inch, they’re gonna take a yard,” Morley said.

After that, she claims she said, “And their rights. And we know that.”

Others say they distinctly heard her say: “And they’re whites. And we know that.”

According to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, there has long been political and and racial divide within the DeKalb County school system. The divide is between the north, where more conservative white residents live, and the south, which is predominantly Black.

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Leisa Stillman, a parent of two from Brookhaven said Morley’s commentary shouldn’t distract from the bigger discussion.

“The focus should be on whether the plan takes into consideration the medical facts, public health risk and social, emotional, mental, and academic well-being of the children and adults involved. Not on one distasteful board member’s rant.”

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