Story by Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN • Updated 5th June 2017
(CNN) — A school board member who helped establish a panel focused on race issues resigned from a committee Thursday, after a heated confrontation with a couple of parents.
On Wednesday night, a father and his wife said they tried to get an update from the group about progress on developing an inclusive educational environment at Houston’s North Forest Independent School District.
After giving the group a chance to respond to the parents’ questions, Debra Horngate stepped out and, according to the couple, began trying to physically remove the parents, despite having a police escort in front of her, CNN affiliate KTRK reported.
“When I moved back in front of her I said ‘What the hell are you doing?'” father Brad Hardiman told KTRK. “When I asked her to go back to the vehicle she wouldn’t listen to me, ‘Excuse me, sir,'” said Hardiman.
“I told the officer … the officer stepped in between her and the parents and I asked her to back up, ‘Can you wait for the police officer, please back up,’ and she wouldn’t,” Hardiman told KTRK.
By the time the officer arrived, Horngate and the parents had moved out of the way, said Hardiman.
“It’s unfortunate that a woman like that is in the position that she’s in, and it’s unfortunate that we have one of those, unfortunately, unfortunately, unfortunate things happen to her,” he told CNN affiliate KPRC.
On Thursday, Horngate resigned from the district’s new Racial Equity Steering Committee.
“I want to be clear that this discussion about racism, equity and equity of education needs to happen in these communities where it is happening, not behind closed doors and not in a secret setting,” Horngate said, according to a statement from the district.
“I believe in the unity of our community and am supportive of the efforts to take this conversation to the community,” she added.
Board president Ron White thanked Horngate for her “courage” and for “taking on the difficult role of chair” for the committee.
“We really don’t have many successful racial equity or racial equity efforts that have been mounted by boards or organizations on an island,” Horngate told KTRK. “In the school district, the first thing we did was to hear from the students, the parents and the staff.”
Horngate says that she hopes for the greatest level of success possible.
“I can’t sit in this seat,” she told KTRK. “I don’t have enough faith that we can do it.”
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