COLORADO SPRINGS — Falcon School District 49 may be the latest school district to ban Critical Race Theory following the approval of a proposal.
The school board recently approved a motion to create a committee that would draft a resolution to ban Critical Race Theory in schools.
"I thought it was interesting to watch them get worked up or concerned about it and I get it. There is a lot of emotions and perspectives out there and I think at that stage in the game, they were trying to figure out where they were," said Jeff Kemp, Falcon School District 49 parent.
Kemp was at the school board meeting when the resolution was proposed. He was surprised the district decided to address the concept.
"A couple of things that I appreciated was that D49 was taking the opportunity to decide for themselves at the local level rather than elevating it to the state level," said Kemp. "The mechanism that we have for educating our kids is called local control. Go to your school board like it was being discussed at D49, those elected officials with the stakeholders which are parents essentially should get to decide what will and won't be taught in their school system."
He believes the concept should not be taught in K-12 education.
"It tries to engineer outcomes, it suggests the idea that because of this tragedy that occurred (slavery) or various other versions of ethic oppression that we have to make up for it somehow. By doing so, we oppress one group of people to elevate another group of people. What we've done is justify oppression. So all we have to do is wait for the tide to turn again, for this group to gain power, and then we've already given them the power to oppress someone else because you just came out of an exercise of oppression and you justified it using academic theory," said Kemp.
Kemp says Critical Race Theory might codify the idea that not all people are created equal. He says there needs to be more of a focus on helping kids understand and interpret historic events.
"If we do recognize that all people are created equal, all kids are created equal. Equal worth, equal rights just for being human then we can discuss the diversions thereof. We know that slavery existed, we know the same people that preached one thing, did another. How do we reconcile that, how did we get there? I think those are the conversations that are more tangible and appropriate to the K-12 level simply because they are immersed in it every day," said Kemp.
According to District Administration, six states have banned or restricted the teachings of Critical Race Theory while 22 have taken no action towards it. The concept has come up in some school districts in Colorado.
"Recently, we have seen the topic come up in several school board meetings across the state. I think we're seeing districts react to it in different ways. Many districts are standing up for reality and what is happening and then we are seeing in some other districts they are taking a different approach in how they're handling the discussion," said Amie Baca-Oehlert, Colorado Education Association.
She says the organization doesn't support the banning of Critical Race Theory.
"We certainly are not in support of anything that talks about banning Critical Race Theory, we are in support of our educators who find age-appropriate ways to teach the truths of our history of a nation so we can learn from our past," said Baca-Oehlert.
According to Baca-Oehlert, the concept has become a politicized issue when it doesn't need to be.
"We absolutely don't believe it causes division to teach our American history. The United States Congress just passed the federal celebration of Juneteeth. In order to understand and know what that holiday is about, we have to understand the origins and history behind that. That is what happens in our public schools, that doesn't create division, it actually creates unity of how we learn from our past and grow in our future," said Baca-Oehlert.
"I get why white parents are feeling stressed. They weren't given the opportunity to learn this history in their K-12 lives. I think white parents are hearing and learning about colonialism, the genocide of indigenous people, the slave trade, the reality of the slave trade in the south. All of this is extremely overwhelming, and what it's doing is producing feelings of guilt, shame, and anger," said Jennifer Ho, director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder. "I think it's a human emotion to feel guilt, shame, and anger and then not want to deal with those negative emotions. Then projects those negative emotions and say it's not my fault. In order to not feel these negative emotions, let's ignore all of this history."
While she understands why parents would feel that way, she says it doesn't help make kids feel like they belong.
"For so long Asian, Black, Latino, and indigenous children have had their history and stories ignored, erased, and sugar-coated. Let's just tell the truth, we aren't blaming anyone, we are just telling the truth about history. I see this as an invitation to white parents to try to manage these negative emotions but to actually investigate the actual history of the United States and to work with school districts so their children get the history that they were deprived of," said Ho.
She says Critical Race Theory can be thought of in two ways. As an academic discipline that was born out of critical legal studies in the 1980s and then there is a way that the term Critical Race Theory is being deployed for electoral/political purposes by conservative groups.
"I think there is an excellent New Yorker article and they talk about Christopher Rufo and his campaign to create an anti-Critical Race Theory movement. If you get to the last three pages of the New York article, he's very clear that he has two intentions with this campaign. His intentions are to disrupt government, that's the intention so one can think of this as the way communism was deployed as a term in the 1950s and the Red Scare of the McCarthy area," said Ho.
She says Critical Race theory isn't taught in many K-12 schools.
"It is highly unlikely that anyone is teaching Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools. If they are teaching it, it must be a very advanced private school that is teaching it as an elective senior seminar for students who are advanced and intend to go on to elite four-year institutions," said Ho. "The discipline of Critical Race Theory as I mentioned is born out of critical legal studies so the writings that form Critical Race Theory are very dense. This isn't saying very bright undergraduate students can't take Critical Race Theory and I have invited very bright students to sit in on my Critical Race Theory classes. It's still taught at a graduate level so the expectations in my Critical Race Theory classes as well those being held you have to be able to keep up with the reading."
She encourages parents who are worried or concerned about the concept to do their research on what is and isn't Critical Race Theory.
D49 School Board members who support the pending resolution believe it will only enhance diversity efforts and build on community trust to educate students and care for staff.