Ankeny School District Superintendent Dr. Erick Pruitt has apologized for the treatment KCCI reporter Lauren Johnson who said she was kept out of a school board meeting about diversity.
“On behalf of myself and the Ankeny Community School District, I would like to formally apologize to KCCI reporter Lauren Johnson for her experience at our board meeting on Monday, April 4,” Pruitt said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Johnson, who is black, said she was kept out despite checking with the school district before the meeting.
She also said the district’s attorney spoke with her while she was outside and told her she was “being loud and if I wanted to see the meeting, I would need to watch the livestream.”
Johnson said being called loud was a code “often used to describe Black people who dare to speak up.”
Pruitt said Johnson and others were asked to wait in the lobby until space became available in the board room to comply with fire code on advice from the fire marshal.
“While they were waiting for entry, staff members did try to quiet the crowd with the intention of allowing the board to hear a presentation from a student in our exchange program,” Pruitt said in the statement. “It is my understanding that the district’s staff attempts to quiet the crowd were received as a personal statement that Ms. Johnson was being loud.”
On Tuesday, Johnson said the school district apologized to her during a meeting that included the Des Moines CBS station news director and that it will reserve space for reporters in the future.
“Journalists of color should never have to feel like they don’t belong in a space while trying to do their job,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “All communities need journalism, period.”
“In the future, Ankeny Schools will reserve a space for the news media at future board meetings and work with district staff on creating a welcoming environment,” said Pruitt. “Additionally, we are identifying larger venues for meetings with an anticipated increased attendance,”