Local schools have no plans to teach Critical Race Theory

The Press Staff

        Critical Race Theory (CRT) has become a political football in school districts across the country.
        Depending on who you talk to, conservatives and liberals have vastly different interpretations of the academic concept. Liberals say CRT teaches that the nation is racist and that racism is structural and systemic in society. Conservatives say CRT undeservedly blames white people for all the ills in society for people of color.
        CRT has caused heated debates in many districts across the U.S.
        Locally, there has been little discussion on using CRT in the schools.
        At a recent Oregon school board meeting, a resident approached the podium to ask the superintendent and the board if the district is currently teaching CRT or plans to teach it in the future.
         Superintendent Hal Gregory said it is not being taught in the district.
        “Based on conversations I have had, Oregon City Schools (OCS) does not teach Critical Race Theory (CRT) or design formal lessons around CRT, he said.
        Over the past six months, he said, the definition of CRT “continues to change and evolve with the scope of the CRT question changing frequently.”
        “I personally continue to educate myself and explore how it may relate to the district. OCS leaders and I welcome different points of view, and look forward to exploring new questions raised to provide the best education possible for our students. The national, state, and local topics of race, diversity, inclusion and equity are dominating discussions around the country and for good reason. Oregon City Schools has a long history of providing solid educational programs and courses which meet the educational needs of the vast majority of our students preparing them for their educational and working futures.”
Positive culture
        The district, he added, has a “policy on controversial topics” that is clear and outlines parameters for the teaching staff and students.
        “Our school system deeply cares about how our students and staff interact and behave with each other. There are appropriate ways to behave and interact, and there are inappropriate ways to behave
and interact. We have a focus on fostering a positive culture for all our students and staff with the goal of respecting and valuing everyone’s differences, which in turn allows for a positive educational experience for all.”
        Curriculum, he said, is driven by the Ohio Learning Standards.
        “We will continue to follow the Social Studies standards moving forward as we have for the past many years. If there are any state level changes to these standards, we will adjust what and how we teach based on the required updates.”
        In section I of its policy manual, the “teaching of controversial issues” was adopted by the board on Sept. 1, 2003. It states the following:
        In the study of controversial issues, students have four rights, which recognize the right to:
        •study a controversial issue that has political, economic or social significance and concern;
        •have free access to all appropriate information, including materials that circulate freely in the community;
        •study under competent instruction in an atmosphere free from bias and prejudice;
        •form and express their own opinions on controversial issues without jeopardizing relations with teachers or the school.
        The study of controversial issues should be objective and scholarly, with a minimum emphasis on opinion, states the policy. The teacher must approach controversial issues in the classroom in an impartial and objective manner and must refrain from using classroom privileges and prestige to promote a partisan point of view.
        Teachers determine the appropriateness of certain issues for consideration using the following criteria;
        •treatment of the issue in question must be within the range, knowledge, maturity and competence of the students;
        •there should be study materials and other learning aids available from which a reasonable extent of data pertaining to all aspects of the issue can be obtained;
        •the issue should receive only as much time as is needed to consider it adequate;
        •the issue should be current, significant and relevant to the students and the teacher.
        A teacher who is in doubt about the advisability of discussing certain issues in the classroom shall  confer with the principal concerning the appropriateness of doing so. If discussion of an issue is not approved by the building principal, the teacher may refer the issue to the superintendent.
        If parents desire that their child be excused from participation in discussion of such material, arrangements are made to respect that request.
        To date, the Genoa community hasn’t expressed much concern about CRT, said Mike Ferguson, superintendent of the Genoa Area Local School District.
        “There may be some conversations on social media out there about it but I haven’t heard anything from anybody. I think one parent came into the office here and asked if we teach CRT and I said no. I don’t know if any school in the area is openly teaching it. Any teacher on any given day may make reference to something that is part of that curriculum,” he said.
        Teachers in the Genoa district, he said, have some latitude to create curriculum for elective classes in their certification area but most of those are targeted at student interests.
        Ferguson said he’s only seen a few references to CRT in materials distributed by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators.
        “The problem is a lot of people are talking about it like they know what it is and I don’t think they do,” he said.
          In the Woodmore district, CRT hasn’t been brought up by residents at school board meetings, Tim Rettig, superintendent, said.
        “I have not received a phone call on it yet,” he said, adding the district follows state standards in its classroom curricula.
        “I understand it’s been discussed at the state board of education and that’s where most of our curriculum standards come from,” he said.
        CRT is not being taught in Benton-Carroll-Salem classrooms and there have only been a few inquiries by the public on the topic, Guy Parmigian, superintendent, said.
        “There has been a bit of discussion on Critical Race Theory. But board members and the administration understand that CRT is not part of the state curriculum standards,” Parmigian said via email. 
        The Eastwood local schools board in July set a policy related to nondiscrimination. The board issued a  statement regarding the policy. 
        “The Nondiscrimination Policy reinforces important aspects of the `Eagle Way.’ One of the Eagle Way's core beliefs involves treating others the way you want to be treated. This core belief is intended to result in the following behaviors: 
        •respect yourself and others;
        •show kindness and compassion through words and actions;
        •invest in each other.
        “These behaviors, in turn, are intended to produce outcomes where students feel valued and respected. The Board of Education is unwavering in its effort to attain this outcome.” 
        In recent months, a national discussion has occurred on school curriculum and the teaching of critical race theory. The Eastwood Board of Education rejects the teaching of critical race theory in Eastwood Schools. We believe each student is a unique individual who deserves to be treated as such, irrespective of the student’s race or sex.  As a result, the Nondiscrimination Policy prohibits teaching of the following concepts:
        •One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
        •An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, either consciously or unconsciously;
        •An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;
        •An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;
        •An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
        •Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; 
        •Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race. 
        “To be clear, certain classroom assignments naturally create intellectual discomfort to encourage critical thinking. Reading assignments, such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm or Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, are classic literature intended to provoke discussion and the intellect. Historically accurate information involving the Civil Rights movement is another example of appropriate curriculum. The Nondiscrimination Policy does not prohibit assignments that challenge the intellect or create intellectual discomfort. In addition, the Nondiscrimination Policy does not prohibit the teaching of any curriculum or concepts required by Ohio law; or which align with the Ohio Academic Standards; or which are otherwise required curriculum or standards adopted by the Board. As elected Board members, we must adhere to Ohio law and intend to do so.”
News Editors Kelly J. Kaczala and Larry Limpf, and Sports Editor/features reporter J. Pat Eaken contributed to this article.


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