On Tuesday, Douglas County School Board trustees said they don’t believe critical race theory is being taught in the district and voted to put the issue to rest.
“CRT is not being taught in our schools,” Trustee Tony Magnotta said before Trustee Robbe Lehmann made a motion that the district has looked at the theory and is putting the issue to rest.
The wife of a former Douglas County commissioner is seeking to overturn the vote that critical race theory is not being taught in the Douglas County Schools.
Jeanne Shizuru, who does not have children in the schools, sent a copy of an open meeting law complaint to The Record-Courier on Thursday. In a statement issued on Sunday, School Superintendent Keith Lewis said that if there was a violation, the board would correct it."Douglas County School District has been made aware that an Open Meeting Law complaint has been filed with Nevada’s Attorney General," Lewis said "As the Board of Trustees' actions support, it has been our goal to be transparent and open to public input regarding the issue of Critical Race Theory in DCSD. If it is determined that there was an unintentional violation, the board will use processes published by the Attorney General to cure any violation."
Trustee Doug Englekirk who sought discussion on the issue acknowledged his reasons were to get ahead of it.
The district held two town hall meetings that attracted around 100 people between them, including U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, and garnered national press. Most of the speakers didn’t have children in Douglas schools.
“This is not really a parent issue,” Robbe Lehmann said earlier in the discussion. Of our 3,000-plus families most don’t think it’s a problem. I’m convinced this is not being taught and is not a part of our curriculum.”
Englekirk defended bringing the debate to the school board for discussion.
He discussed a resolution approved in Lyon County that condemned discrimination and barred teaching that “individuals are either members or the oppressor class or oppressed class because of their race, sex, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity…”
He said he doesn’t believe critical race theory is being taught in Douglas County schools.
“I think history should be taught,” Englekirk said in seeking to have a similar resolution approved in Douglas County.
No school trustee said they thought the theory should be taught in the classroom.
“I agree we shouldn’t be teaching our kids to feel guilty about things that happened in the past,” Lehmann said. “We shouldn’t label anyone because of their race. Those things cannot be taught as truth, it’s a theory.”
Board members voted 7-0 with the promise that if any of them sees the theory being taught that they would bring it back to the board.
Shizuru was at the meeting but said she left thinking that the school board wouldn’t take any action on the agenda item, which said “As a standing item, the Board may discuss the process they will use to address the future agenda item related to Critical Race Theory.”
The item was listed for discussion and possible action, but a flyer for a 6:30 p.m. townhall for U.S. Senate candidate Sam Brown and candidate for governor Fred Simon emptied the room.
“I have no desire for our students to be taught in this racist and biased way,” Trustee Heather Jackson said. “I have four kids and I’ve always been involved in what they’re learning. I have not seen this in any way in our district. My kids have had amazing teachers. The fact is we’re not seeing parents concerned about this.”
When Board President Linda Gilkerson called for public comment before the vote no one stepped forward.
“I love our kids, I love our teachers and I love our district,” Gilkerson said. “All we’ve been doing is tearing them down and becoming divisive. I feel our parents are not the ones concerned about this. It’s nothing but a political issue in my opinion.”
Shizuru also took issue with board members receiving copies of the Lyon County resolution from the superintendent.
While Englekirk referred to the resolution, the board didn’t discuss its specific points.
“This vote means a lot,” Lewis said. “It means we are treating our teachers as professionals. We are blessed to have an amazing staff. We need to support our educators. I have absolute confidence that we’re not teaching CRT in our classrooms.”
The school board also approved Lewis’ personnel evaluation, which gave him a 3.86 out of 4. Lewis was hired just months into the pandemic.