At a recent Douglas County School District board meeting, Superintendent Kane was scolded by a public speaker for accepting an award for “defeating that imaginary dragon,” referring to critical race theory, or CRT. I welcome the opportunity to provide evidence that this divisive and illiberal ideology was indeed at our schools’ doorstep, and applaud those parents who recognized the harm associated with this ideology and voiced their concerns.
CRT prioritizes group identity over the individual, which was a focus of a professional development session that took place in April 2021. The facilitators of this session suggested that we should “ensure the best outcomes for everyone … with a special focus on people of color.” Suggesting that individuals who share a similar skin color require special treatment is insulting, derogatory and unfair. Parents watched a recording of the session and subsequently demanded that leadership terminate the relationship with the consultant and issue an apology. We’re still waiting on the latter.
CRT also promotes social justice activism, which is concerned with how power and domination operate and suggests that individuals are victims of structural discrimination and therefore have no agency or dignity. This is a central focus of the No Place for Hate (NPFH) program. Why should our students be encouraged to internalize hopelessness, lack of individual identity, and the impossibility of friendship across lines of difference while they’re suffering epidemic levels of anxiety, depression and suicide? Once they were informed of the details of the NPFH program, parents shared their concerns with school leaders and the NPFH program is in three schools now, down from 35 in early 2021.
Another example of this ideology being in our schools comes via the privilege walks that took place one year ago. This activity inculcates the idea that certain immutable characteristics such as skin color and sexual orientation determine a person’s status, whether privileged or victim, and produces feelings of shame and guilt. How can kids be emotionally healthy if they’re expected to view their classmates as oppressors or victims? DCSD leadership immediately stopped these exercises, as they put the district at risk of receiving complaints of civil rights violations.
Our parent community confirms that the distractions of social justice activism and group identity politics have lessened in DCSD, thanks to the change in leadership, and we’re much closer to attaining a common culture based on fairness, understanding and humanity than we were one year ago.