Parent, former white supremacist react after controversy at Chesterfield school

Tonight, a former white supremacist says she's disappointed her visit to a Chesterfield school was suddenly cancelled this week.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 7:56 PM EST
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - A former white supremacist says she’s disappointed her visit to a Chesterfield school was suddenly canceled this week.

Shannon Foley Martinez was set to speak at Manchester Middle School, but after an outcry from parents, her invite was quickly rescinded.

The event originated from the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

“It just needed to be said. I sent him a very wordy email and it seems like I was not the only person who had issues with it,” Chesterfield parent Stephanie Hewlett said.

Hewlett is now questioning why Manchester Middle School’s principal on why they would want to bring a former violent white supremacist to talk to students.

“It was kind of a shot in the back because it was sent during Black History Month,” Hewlett said. “During a time when I know they didn’t send any permission slips out for the children to hear from speakers regarding Black History Month.”

This comes after the Virginia Holocaust Museum offered Martinez - a “reformed neo-Nazi, white-power skinhead” now committed to help dismantle the culture of white supremacy - as a speaker to schools across Virginia. Parents had the choice to opt-in their children if they were interested.

“There was no intention on having someone feel uncomfortable. In fact what we’re doing is helping students and giving them the tools to use if they ever see these types of situations, and how do they deal with it,” executive director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum Sam Asher said.

Hewlett said she would be more open if the school offered a panel of different speakers to get a variety of viewpoints and input.

“But there was no balance. It was just this one person placed in front of us. I wasn’t OK with it I’m still not OK with it and something else needs to be done,” Hewlett said.

Martinez said she’s disappointed with the decision but understands if communities don’t feel safe having her.

“I try to empower them to recognize messages that they might find resonance and be better inoculated against finding resonance with communities and content that are targeting them to try to get them to embrace hate,” Martinez said.