CUSD board member focus of dust-up over school speaker - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

CUSD board member focus of dust-up over school speaker

February 28th, 2023 SanTan Sun News
CUSD board member focus of dust-up over school speaker

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

A member of the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board is facing criticism for attending a Turning Point USA event at Perry High School on Feb. 21.

Five speakers called out Kurt Rohrs for attending a presentation by three speakers at the Gilbert school. Turning Point is a student group that supports conservative political candidates.

The lead speaker, Stephen Davis, a podcaster known as the “MAGA Hulk” (Make America Great Again), was canceled out of an appearance at the University of California Davis in late October after about 100 people engaged in a brawl.

According to media reports, the clash was between members of the Proud Boys and left-wing protesters. The extreme-right Proud Boys were involved in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I’m disturbed and outraged by the actions of one of our Governing Board members and the message it sends to our community,” said Katie Nash, a CUSD parent, former teacher in the district and past president of the Chandler Education Association.

“As we look to our portrait of a learner, the creation of which included many stakeholders including staff, parents, students, and community members, it has attributes like empathy, critical thinking, collaboration and global citizen,” Nash said. “I fail to see where violence, hate, exclusivity, and uniformity fit in.”

CUSD parent Brandy Reese said she does not believe a divisive political group should be a club on a high school campus.

“Turning Point USA keeps watch lists of school boards and professors that it considers radical,” Reese said. “This includes this school board, it posts the members, board members photos, names and contact information.”

Rohrs said the speakers were misinformed. First, they quoted him from a satirical website that he does not run. Second, he is required to wear his board member ID whenever he is on a CUSD campus.

He said he went to the event because he had heard some information about the speakers and wanted to find out for himself what they were about.

“Don’t believe everything everybody tells you, go find out for yourself, go do your own due diligence, learn about it instead of relying on it, because you never know, when people are telling you things, just to manipulate you or get you to do something,” Rohrs said.

“And I think in some respects, that’s kind of what happened here. Because there’s a lot of disinformation that came out.”

The district said Turning Point is a recognized student club at Perry High, having followed all the rules necessary to become one. They limited attendance to just club members, and only 14 students attended the presentation.

“Permission slips were required,” the district said in a statement. “Students needed parental consent to attend the club meeting to hear the speaker. Students need parental consent to join school clubs in general. All clubs must have a sponsor who is a certified staff member. Additionally, all clubs must follow district approved bylaws and have officers before it is approved by the district.

“Safety is a top priority, and we take it very seriously. At no time was the school or students in danger. The speaker’s engagement was not open to the public nor was it for the general student population. This information was shared with all Governing Board members. Board members represent themselves and do not necessarily represent the opinions of other Board members or the District.”

A group of counter-protestors did try to attend the speech at Perry, but said they were turned away.

The other speakers with Davis were Morgonn McMichael, a social media influencer, and Anthony Watson, a 2018 Winter Olympian from Jamaica. All three are contributors to Turning Point USA. Davis and Watson are both Black.

“It actually was very positive talk,” Rohrs said. “Their history is that they came out of tough circumstances, and then got past it, and you want to kind of share that. They did talk a lot about their being canceled for trying to speak out against the narrative that’s out there.

“The other thing is that they said when they were growing up, they were very afraid of white people, because that’s what they were taught. So they were reaching out to kids and saying, ‘Hey, look, just don’t judge each other by what you look like go find out about people, get to know them. Then make a decision whether you like them or not.’ So I thought it was pretty good.”