Visit the schools and see for yourself


Critical Race Theory is a topic that is getting a lot of press lately. It was suggested by one of the members of our board that we should educate ourselves on the topic and discuss it.

To educate myself on the topic I read numerous books, articles, and papers written by some of the founders of CRT and by critics of their work. I met with Denise Beronio, a member of our community who is staunchly against CRT and who provided me with more material. I watched a video produced by Paul Jensen, a school librarian in the district. And I attended two town hall events that the district held for members of the community to speak about CRT.

As I researched CRT it became clear that there is no one single neat and accurate definition. The movement’s founders don’t even agree on what it is. To many, CRT represents any liberal “woke” racial social justice issue.

After talking with those concerned about CRT in our classrooms a few common themes emerged that they were against.

• All white people are oppressors, and all people of color are oppressed.

• White people should feel guilty and shame for the actions of other white people decades and centuries ago (white guilt).

• All white people are inherently racist.

• Based strictly on race, students of color should be given additional resources or grading scales should be lowered so that they can get better grades more easily.

I know for a fact that our grading standards are colorblind. Individuals are treated as individuals and not as a member of a race. But I have heard stories of corporate sensitivity trainings that divide people by race, and I did not want those types of events or the ideas in the bullet points taught as fact in our schools.

Even though CRT is not part of our curriculum and is not in the Nevada Academic Content Standards, I was curious if some of its themes have made their way into our schools in a way that is teaching students racist beliefs.

So, I talked with dozens of current teachers, administrators, and students and spent time in classrooms. Throughout those hours of discussion and observation a few things stood out:

• One teacher admitted that several years ago a student reported him for presenting something in a biased fashion. He was nearly immediately contacted by school administrators and an investigation was conducted.

• Not a single student told me that they have had an experience where a teacher has pushed their political views on the class.

• The district has a three-page, five-step process in place already to address objections to instructional materials. You can read it on the district’s website: Administrative Regulation 219(b).

After my discussions, I was absolutely convinced that no political views, including the most divisive teachings found in CRT, are being pushed on our students as part of approved curriculums. Am I naive enough to believe that something that sounds overtly political or “CRT-ish” is never said by any of our teachers? No, I’m not. But it’s not our practice and there are policies in place if and when it happens.

The question then becomes: if it’s not being taught in our district, why not just make a policy that bans CRT?

My concern with that approach is twofold:

First, I believe there are potential unintended negative consequences from a blanket policy barring CRT. Will history teachers have to tip-toe around race issues to make sure they’re not violating the policy? What if a student raises their hand and asks specifically about CRT? Shouldn’t the teacher be able to guide an unbiased discussion of the topic if it's germane to the lesson? A blanket policy would have a chilling effect on discussion and debate.

Second, I simply don’t believe in censorship. As I look through history and the people, groups, and nations that engage in censorship, I don’t want to be a part of that club. Open debate and open dialogue is a key to democracy. Censorship is a very slippery and very dangerous slope. If you believe in the First Amendment, you don’t just believe in your right to speech, you believe in the freedom of speech of the person who is saying stuff you hate. There are limitations to the First Amendment in schools, but I’m happy standing on the side of freedom of speech and not on the side of censorship.

In the end, I trust our teachers, their professionalism, and their dedication to unbiased teaching. I know there are those who will claim that CRT is alive and well in the district. But I simply disagree with them, and I invite any of them or anybody in the community to talk to a wide variety of teachers and students and to spend time in our schools. I am positive that you will leave beyond impressed with our teachers and their instruction.

Author's Note: Last week, the Douglas County School Board voted 7-0 to not create a policy on or in reference to Critical Race Theory. I am a member of that seven-person board and I wanted to share in a larger forum why I voted the way I did. I represent 14.3 percent of what that board thinks and feels. Therefore, this letter speaks only for me and not for the board as a whole or for any of the other trustees individually. 


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