Posted on February 26, 2022

Gov. Kelly Calls on Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson to Resign After ‘Inappropriate’ Remarks

Andrew Bahl and Rafael Garcia, Topeka Capital-Journal, February 24, 2022

Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday there “is no question” education commissioner Randy Watson should “resign his position immediately” after he made what a state board of education member termed “inappropriate” remarks during a conference on virtual education last week.

A copy of the video from Watson’s remarks at the Kansas Virtual Learning Conference, provided to the Capital-Journal Thursday afternoon under the Kansas Open Records Act, shows Watson discussing tornadoes as part of an analogy to describe education during the COVID-19 pandemic before appearing to veer into a story from his childhood.

“It was always fascinating,” he said. “I had some cousins in California. They were petrified of tornadoes. They’d come visit us in the summer. They’d be like ‘Are we going to get killed by a tornado?’ and I’d say ‘Don’t worry about that. But you’ve got to be worried about the Indians raiding the town at any time.’ They really thought that. I guess growing up in California, you don’t know much of the history of Kansas.”


The three Native American members of the legislature, Reps. Stephanie Byers, D-Wichita, Ponka-We Victors, D-Wichita, and Christina Haswood, D-Lawrence, also called on Watson to resign.

“There must be accountability from people in leadership. His commentary alluded to hateful and bigoted stereotypes towards Native Americans,” the three members said in a statement. “Comments like those from Commissioner Watson undermine efforts to teach the truth.”

Byers said in an interview Thursday morning that she had seen the video of Watson’s remarks, saying, “it’s not good.”

“It does go to highlight the extreme need we have for greater education about Native American people and Native American culture across this country,” she said.  {snip}

Kansas has four federally recognized tribes: the Prairie Band Pottawatomi Nation, the Kansas Kickapoo Tribe, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska.

In a statement, Zeke Rupnick, chair of the Prairie Band Pottawatomi Nation, said Watson “revealed himself as someone who is not suited for a leadership role and because of that he should resign immediately.”


Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, chair of the Senate Education Committee said it was “concerning” that Kelly’s office weighed in on a matter that is ultimately up to the State Board of Education.


“I think Kansans right now, they would like that the executive branch not be a part of the cancel culture and not be that culture police,” she said. “But instead focus on the policy side, which is their responsibility.”