UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (WSYX) — A video captured by an undercover camera sparked controversy in Upper Arlington.
The footage shows Matthew Boaz, the district's Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, talking about critical race theory.
The group, Accuracy in Media, is behind the video. Two people disguised as parents interested in enrolling a student in the district recorded the video on an undercover camera in the summer of 2022. An edited version of the footage was released in January 2023.
"The first line of the Upper Arlington Schools' mission statement says to challenge and support every student," said Josh Quinn, a parent of one student. "This discussion is not about one man's job who found himself unfairly caught in political crossfire."
"It appears he believes that the DEI program and initiatives he manages do not need to fall under policies of the school district and looking for loopholes to get around potential pending legislation with the state," said Sally Boyer, a parent of three Upper Arlington graduates.
More than 100 parents, grandparents, graduates, and community members attended Tuesday's board of education meeting. Many of them shared their thoughts during the public participation part of the meeting.
"Based on recent national coverage, it is apparent to me that I would not get accurate information as to what curriculum is actually being taught in our district," said Kerry, a parent of 4 current Upper Arlington students. "This discussion is about a high school level official undermining the role of parents in children’s lives."
Some parents are calling on the district to be more transparent while others said the video's an attack by an outside, extremist group.
"We have seen over the last few months a number of outside, extremist groups attacking our school district and attacking our educators, and we really just want to be here to stand up for them and make sure the school board knows that we are here to support our school district," said Liz Stump, a mom of two students in the district.
"It makes me feel angry, because we all have to spend our time defending against that, and we'd rather spend our time on productive things," said Heidi Munc, a mom of two graduates.
"I love our schools, and it's really hard when all these outsider influences just create chaos. It's stressful," said Melody Linscott, a mom of a high school student. "I believe in empathy and the power of our community to come together and to heal."
Upper Arlington Schools released this statement:
"Upper Arlington Schools and the Upper Arlington Board of Education are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and ensuring our schools are places where every student is welcomed, respected, celebrated and supported while receiving the highest quality education. This is a crucial part of ensuring that we live out our mission to challenge and support every student, every step of the way.
While we remain committed to DEI, critical race theory is not part of the district’s academic program. The district follows the state learning standards and all laws in effect related to public education.
The district is aware of an online video that presents a recording of Matthew Boaz, the executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion. At this point, we know the video was recorded with a hidden camera and under false pretenses by a man and woman who claimed to be interested in enrolling a student. The couple guided the conversation to focus on the topic of critical race theory, which again, is not taught or used in the district.
We take this matter very seriously and continue to examine the circumstances surrounding the video and the statements made therein."
According to the district, Boaz requested leave that does not require board action.
In January, ABC6/FOX28 asked Accuracy in Media for the raw, unedited footage of the conversation with Boaz and received a response stating it would be released at a later date. ABC6/FOX28 reached out to an Accuracy in Media employee on February 7, asking again for the raw, unedited footage and did not receive a reply.