Kansas Department of Education
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Kansas' top education official quits after offensive comment, but board refuses to accept resignation

Feb. 27, 2022
Education Commissioner Randy Watson made an insensitive comment to his family about Native Americans.

Kansas' top education official has been suspended after making an offensive comment about Native Americans

The Kansas City Star reports Education Commissioner Randy Watson initially resigned after uproar about the comments, but the State Board of Education refused to accept his resignation, instead suspending him for 30 days.

Watson's offensive remark came when he compared responding to the Covid-19 pandemic to dealing with a tornado and a hurricane. He said cousins from California who visited him in Kansas were “petrified” of tornadoes.

“They’re like, ‘Are we going to get killed by a tornado?’” Watson said. “And I’d say, ‘Don’t worry about that, but you got to worry about the Indians raiding the town at any time.’”

Jim Porter, the chairman of the State Board of Education, said Watson had made multiple apologies.

“We looked at the entire history of the commissioner,” Porter said Friday. “We believe in restorative justice.”

The board's decision came a day after Gov. Laura Kelly, three indigenous state legislators and the chair of one of the state's four Native American nations called on Watson to resign.

Watson became education commissioner in November 2014 after serving as superintendent of the McPherson district. 

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