Alleghany County School Board member Donnie Kern says his use of a derogatory term was taken out of context at a public meeting in February.

In March, the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors called for Kern’s resignation from the school board, accusing him of failing to perform his duties and using a slur against special education students.

The slur was made public at a February school board meeting, which Kern did not attend. 

Kern admits using the derogatory term in October, but he says he was “publicly embarrassed, harassed, defamed and retaliated against five months later.”  

At the school board’s February meeting, Chairman Randy Tucker disclosed that Kern slurred special education students in a communication with Amy Trail, a Roanoke-based advocate for children with special needs.

Tucker said Kern told Trail, “I don’t want my kid in the retard room.” Tucker was brought to tears as he disclosed Kern’s statement.

In a statement released Friday, Kerns said: “My use of the word ‘retard’ to identify a program and its lack of resources —  not a child, student, or individual. 

“My use of this word was indeed a poor choice. I did not aim this word at any student, child or individual; only to identify a program. I deeply regret using this identifier to explain how this program needed more resources,” he said.

After taking a leave of  absence from the board in March and April, Kern announced last week that he will not resign from his Clifton Forge West seat on the school board.

On Friday, Kern said that although he made his controversial statement to Trail in October, she remained  in contract with him for several weeks. Kern had contacted Trail to address complaints he had over the school division’s special education program. 

He denied claims by the school board and Trail that indicated that she immediately cut off contact with him in October.    

Kern said he continued to have conversations with Trail through early December, and at one point, she referred to him as a “hero” in a Facebook post.

“Despite Amy Trail’s dishonesty and lack of credibility in her letter, along with her motives to send school officials this letter five months later, should position you to question her loyalties and involvement in this situation,” Kern said.

“It takes a unique situation to cause a child advocate to abandon their own obligation to protect children, confidentiality of a family, and betraying a school board member who was assisting her in collecting information to file a systemic complaint,” he added.

Kern also questioned Tucker’s motivation in reading Trail’s letter aloud at the February school board meeting.

“The intent for Amy Trail’s letter to be read aloud in order to cause harm to a public official and an innocent child lacks humanity on all levels,” Kern said. “What is worse is that the chairman of the school board was the individual reading it; without any reason, a complete violation of privacy, and the simple lack of morals.”

In a comment directly aimed at Tucker, Kern said: “If you had a concern for my use of the word, and details contained in the letter, why not pick up a phone and give me a call to get my side of things? It must have been as you stated in November,  ‘The school board will not be doing any investigations.’”

Kern also took aim at Steve Bennett, chairman of the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors. Bennett and the board of supervisors voted unanimously in March to request Kern’s resignation from the school board.

Kern urged Bennett to visit his website at www.donniekern.com and watch what he described as “two disturbing videos.” Kern said the videos will explain why he walked out of a January school board meeting in protest.

“Seems there is a trend of not wanting to discuss issues in Alleghany County,  just like in our school division,” Kern said.

Since Kern has chosen not resign from his school board seat, the  the board of supervisors will have to decide whether to ask a local judge to remove him from the board. 

Bennett declined to comment on the matter last week, saying he had not discussed it with the full board. The matter was not discussed when supervisors met Tuesday night.