BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Some members of the community are upset over comments made during a recent Brownsburg Community School Corporation (BCSC) board meeting.
The comment regarding mental health was made during a tense exchange between a parent and board president, Eric Hylton, at the May 9 board meeting.
Joe Chase was the second of two people to approach the podium during the comments from patrons portion of the meeting. He said he also attended the previous month’s board meeting, where he expressed the same concerns he shared last week.
“I needed to know what the district planned to do to enforce equitable outcomes,” said Chase, who has a 6-year-old child in the district.
Chase said he was able to obtain documents, like the Foundation Training provided to staff, and spoke with administration to raise his concerns about the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program, but it was when the dialogue stopped, that he felt he needed to bring those in front of the board.
At the 26-minute mark in the video of the school board meeting, Chase begins to address the school board by citing the district’s Foundation Training and its vision, which reads, “With conviction and courage, BCSC cultivates an environment that inspires brave and intentional actions which impact systems, promote equitable opportunities for marginalized people, and enhance the educational experience for all.”
“In order to get to those equitable outcomes, you have to discriminate. So, that was my concern,” said Chase.
When he directed a question to Superintendent Jim Snapp, Hylton said, “you need to address me as the board president,” to which Chase responded, “I’ll address who I like, please.”
According to bylaw 0167.3 regarding public participation at board meetings, “all statements shall be directed to the presiding officer; no person may address or question board members individually.”
“You will follow board policy and address the presiding officer,” said Hylton. “Sir, I have freedom of speech and I can ask the question to anybody,” Chase answered before he was told to wrap his comments.
It was a comment made by Hylton as Chase was walking away, that is now catching the attention of people in the community and beyond.
“I’m not going away,” said Chase, to which Hylton responded, “Now I understand the mental health issues a lot of our kids in school.”
“That’s not necessary, Mr. Hylton,” said Chase.
“I think that you know, every parent that has a child that’s struggling with mental illness right now would be crazy to not feel insulted,” Chase shared with FOX59.
FOX59 reached out to board president Eric Hylton about the comment made during the meeting. He shared a statement Wednesday, which reads:
My reaction to Mr. Chase on May 9th was not appropriate and I apologize to him. I have also accepted his apology to me. It was not my intent to question his mental health, but instead to refer to the mental health issues of our students. Regardless, I did not represent the school board well that evening as its leader and I will do better in the future.Eric Hylton, Board President, Brownsburg Community School Corporation School Board
Chase shared that he and Hylton exchanged and accepted each other’s apologies following the meeting. He said he apologized for his outburst, while also expressing how he felt hurt by the comments made.
“I feel like it was a low blow just to get people off of the fact that I was asking a very serious question,” said Chase. “During that conversation he said he was sorry if I thought that comment was directed at me.”
Although Hylton’s comment referred to mental health, nowhere in Chase’s public comments did he bring up mental health among students, however, a senior at Brownsburg High School who took the podium right before him, did.
“This is a subject that is really important to me, because mental health can look like anything,” the teen shared. “It can look like anxiety, depression, ADHD, etcetera. But sometimes, it can be hard to identify who is struggling with mental health.”
The student shared his thoughts on mental health, specifically teen mental health, in hopes of encouraging the board to look at data and explore ways to better support students.
Chase called what happened at the meeting ‘unfortunate’ and said he loves the Brownsburg School District and hopes dialogue will continue moving forward. Although his family recently moved to a nearby town, he said he plans to enter the lottery next school year, to re-enroll his daughter.
FOX59 also reached out to the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) for a comment on the story. While the association declined to comment, it’s important to note that Hylton is not an employee of ISTA, but that his firm is used by ISTA for legal services.