Those who spoke on both sides of an impassioned debate Monday night at a packed Mead School Board meeting said they want students to learn a complete and accurate history of the United States. But ask them what kind of history they should learn, and their opinions start to differ.
The school board introduced two policies on Monday night that, if approved, would ban teaching critical race theory in the Mead School District as well as ban materials on gender studies from the school district’s libraries. Both proposals, drafted by school board member Michael Cannon, are separate agenda items that are not yet up for a vote by the board.
More than 30 commenters, including school district employees and parents, were on the lineup to express their opinions at the meeting Monday night, the majority of whom voiced their disapproval of the potential bans. Despite the board’s request to hold their applause and to keep their comments to two minutes or less, all of the public commenters went over the limit and ended with clapping and cheers.
Among those who opposed the bans, some expressed their concerns that doing so was a strategic move meant to satisfy a political constituency and was not in the best interest of students. Some commenters suggested to the board that the proposals would provide ammunition for opponents of public education to essentially “lump” any course material they disagreed with under the moniker of critical race theory.
“I’m not afraid of the proposed policy because it is not a policy that pertains to us, because we do not teach critical race theory,” said Troy Hughes, principal at Northwood Middle School, where the meeting was held. “I am opposed to this policy because it stirs the pot.
“Are these policies for the benefit of kids or for the divisiveness of adults?” Hughes asked.
Some expressed their frustration about the lack of communication about the proposals to parents, especially right before the school year begins.
Others took issue with the fact that the proposal was nearly the same as House Bill 1807.
“Why now?” commenter Whitney Edwards asked the board. “The teachers are already in the classroom and now they have to deal with this? A policy that came from a failed bill? Why now?”
Those who were in favor of the bans also voiced their opinions.
“I think this is a question of priorities,” said Maureen Nicholson, who described negative experiences of critical race theory in one of her daughter’s math classes. “We have limited taxpayer resources and precious classroom time.”
Along with other commenters, Nicholson said she feels that critical race theory assigns negative stereotypes to certain races, particularly white people.
“It assigns an immoral value to someone based on their skin color,” she said.
Emilie Comb, who agreed with Nicholson, said that she is a descendant of slavery and was opposed to critical race theory being taught in Mead.
“If we do this and keep allowing peoples’ ideology to manipulate our children they won’t have a chance,” she said.
The large group of attendees left the meeting after nearly two hours of comments.
“There’s a lot of different perceptions when people say ‘CRT,’ ” Cannon said. “The discussion takes on an emotional charge. We have a lot more common ground than we think we do.”
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