Caroline County supervisor facing backlash after social post on disabled students talks with 8News

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CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia elected official is coming under fire for a post he made on social media that appears to be singling out students of color and those with special needs. Caroline County Board of Supervisor member Clay Forehand apologized for his remarks and exclusively talked with 8News to answer the tough questions.

Forehand wrote a questionable post online two weeks ago that some community members found offensive and insensitive. He was engaging in a conversation on Facebook about the challenges teachers face in the classroom, specifically regarding disruptive students.

The sentence that is turning some heads reads, teaching is “even harder when the federal and state says you can’t expel or move someone out of a classroom or school for doing horrible things in school because he may have some sort of disability or additional melatonin in his skin”

Forehand actually meant ‘melanin’, a dark pigment used to give hair and skin color, not melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. The two-term board member says the typo was a mistake using ‘voice-to-text’ on his smartphone.

Forehand told 8News he lost sleep over the post.

“It came out way different than what was intended,” Forehand said. “But I understand. Once I realized how that could be interpreted. I felt horrible.”

Forehand posted an apology on his Facebook page that reads:

Hello Everyone,

Many of you may not know, but I made some comments on another page that were not intended to be insensitive to specific groups of people or races, but were taken as exactly that.

I want to take a moment to apologize for using any reference to skin tone or disability as examples when attempting to provide context regarding the tough job that teachers have. It was never my intent to single out these groups in a negative light, but in retrospect, that is exactly what I did. Its obvious from the comments received that the comment I made is insensitive and offensive to many, and for that I am truly sorry. My fellow members on the Board feel like my post was hurtful and unnecessary and I want to apologize to them as well for bringing negative attention to that body.

The Caroline County schools do a masterful job of providing a rich environment to learn here. My comment is not a reflection of anything happening here and I plead that no one reading this take my hurtful and ill-chosen words as any reflection upon them or the excellent job that is being done to advance Caroline County schools. They work hard at what they do and don’t deserve any added barriers to keep them from their mission.

Sincerely,
Clay Forehand

At last week’s board of supervisors meeting, Forehand stood before his fellow board members and community members to apologize in person.

One woman stood up during public comment and said, “It is very disheartening to the parents of children with disabilities and I did take it offensively when it was addressed as “melanin.”

Forehand apologized twice, but the criticism remains. Some accepted his apology, some are demanding more accountability and some are demanding his resignation.

“You meant what you said or you wouldn’t have said it” and “The comments made were discriminatory in nature” were among some of the comments left online.

Although the comment is circulating, Forehand said the one sentence that is being criticized is part of a much larger conservation.

When asked directly by 8News what his intent was in making the post, Forehand responded:

“The intent was that not everyone gets what they need in their class. What gets lost is if there is a dispute from any kid. The children that remain in the classroom are not learning at that point. There are protections in place because people are using race,” Forehand pauses. “There was an obvious attribution to discipline and race, personally I strongly disagree with that.”

Forehand says there are some legal protections built in for minorities when it comes to expulsion. A Caroline resident questioned Forehand online asking, “Are you saying it’s only the students with extra ‘melatonin’ causing problems in schools and comparing that to a disability?”

Forehand answered stating, “not at all, but there are some protections built in for minorities from being expelled, in an attempt to ensure that there is not a racial element behind the expulsion. Ask a school administrator”.

When further questioned online, Forehand goes on to say he would have disdain if a white child were not expelled or transferred simply because he is white, and the same degree of disdain if black or Hispanic children were expelled simply because of their race.

Forehand says after reflection, he recognizes that he needs to be more sensitive about the controversial subjects and is sorry.

“I hurt some friend’s feelings and I feel horrible about that,” he said. “I feel horrible about that, it was never my intention and it’s something that I wish I could take back.”

As of now, Forehand has no plans to resign and says he wants to move forward and have the tough conversations with those in the Caroline community.

Jeffery Sili, the Caroline County Board Chairman released a statement on Tuesday:

As Chairman of the Caroline Board of Supervisors, I feel a need to address a statement made on social media by fellow board member Clay Forehand last week. While the comments in question were made without the knowledge of myself or this board, my hope is that our community knows that these comments do not reflect my thoughts or the thoughts or position of the Caroline Board of Supervisors.  Our shared goal as a board has always been and will always continue to be one of bringing citizens together and making decisions that are best for everyone county-wide.”

Jeffery Sili

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