A Minooka High School District 111 Board member continued to argue that allegations that she made a racist remark about a black faculty member were “lies” and “fake news” after hundreds flooded a public meeting to express their anger over the rumor.
Board member Lori Lakota vehemently denied the allegation that she said she would not want her children to be taught by an African American teacher.
“It was a lie,” Lakota said. “It was not said.”
Lakota added that she “absolutely” has no problem with her children being taught by an African American.
“Anyone who knows me knows it’s an absolute lie,” she said referring to the alleged remark.
When asked why someone would be spreading false rumors about her, she said she had “no idea.”
“That’s what’s so sad,” Lakota said. “All I have to say is that I’m very, very sad.”
Those at the meeting also were angry over the surprise resignation of Principal Ronald Kiesewetter. Several in the audience expressed concern that his resignation came about because he voiced opposition to the alleged comment.
Board President Mike Brozovich said at the meeting that the rumors were unrelated to Kiesewetter’s resignation and that it was a mutual decision between him and the board.
Although none of those making comments at Tuesday meeting is mentioned Lakota by name, about 90 minutes into the public comments, she stood up and addressed the crowd, telling them the comments were never made and that the rumor was false.
On Wednesday, Lakota said she felt like speaking up “because they were looking at me and pointing.”
“They were addressing me,” she said. “It was very upsetting.”
She added that she has been receiving threats and claimed the police were dealing with them. Later, when asked to clarify, Lakota admitted she was not sure if the police were involved.
Students at the meeting also spoke about other concerns they had with Lakota, again never naming her specifically, including tweets they found from the Twitter handle
One student brought up three tweets sent to conservative Fox media personalities Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, which appear to show her asking them for recommendations on school textbooks.
“@TuckerCarlson I am on a high school board, and I am looking for non-biased textbook recommendations. Please help us find biology books that don’t blame climate change on humans and US History Books that don’t hate America,” one tweet read.
When asked about the tweets Wednesday, Lakota at first denied even having a Twitter account, but then walked back her comments and said she would neither confirm nor deny if she had a Twitter account.
“I’m always asking people for nonbiased political information,” she said. “I’ve asked many diverse people. I’m trying to get our kids the most accurate, factual information without a political agenda.”
When asked if one of those methods of getting such information was a Twitter account, she refused to say one way or the other and then appeared to contradict her previous statement.
“Twitter is one avenue. There are many more avenues that I use,” she said.
When asked again if the Twitter account was hers, she said, “No comment.”
Several students also spoke about the need for more diverse faculty members and highlighted that only one teacher in the district is black. Lakota said the District 111 board also was “shocked” to hear stories from many of the students of color who described feeling uncomfortable at the school because of racist remarks directed toward them or finding drawings of swastikas.
“That was the principal’s and administration’s job to inform us of those things,” Lakota said. “I want everyone in our schools to feel comfortable. I don’t care who you are or where you came from.”
When asked if she would support the district finding and hiring more teachers of color, she said she wants to “hire the best people for the job.”
Lakota also said it was the responsibility of the district’s administration to recruit and interview candidates to bring to the board for approval.
Lakota went on to say it was the board’s policy to give equal employment opportunities to everyone regardless of race, color, nation of origin, religion, sex or sexual orientation. When asked why so few district faculty and staff were African American, she again reiterated it was not the board’s job to recruit and interview candidates.
“Why don’t you ask the former principal?” she said.
Lakota added that she also was speaking to an attorney about a possible defamation lawsuit against two people she claims started the rumor.
Although she did not specifically name the individuals, she said one of them was “no longer with” the school district.
Lakota was reelected to her second four-year term on the board in April. She received the most votes in Will, Grundy and Kendall counties of the seven candidates who ran for three open seats.
Brozovich provided the statement he read at the meeting but didn’t respond to requests for further comment.