WINCHESTER – Students are not learning critical race theory in public schools in Winchester, Frederick County, or Clarke County, according to school district officials.
Christin Taylor, Assistant Professor of English at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Explains Critical Race Theory is a line of thought, research and practice that experts use in academia and in their field of expertise. to examine institutional policies and how they are shaped by race and how race influences these policies. Lawyers created the academic framework in the 1970s and 1980s.
Taylor, who holds a doctorate from the University of Maryland, focuses his research on African American literature and culture. Part of his research includes studying aspects of critical race theory in academia.
She said critical race theory is typically taught in master’s-level courses at colleges and universities, and is not designed for elementary and high school students.
âThere’s this spread of misinformation about what Critical Race Theory is that makes people fear something that doesn’t exist,â Taylor said. âLocal communities are encouraged to do something that just doesn’t exist.
Critical race theory has become a lightning rod of controversy across the country. Many activists and conservative experts say it is taught in fairness-minded K-12 schools.
But school officials in the area say their equity initiatives should not be confused with teaching critical race theory. They point out that the curriculum taught is defined by the state through the Virginia Standards of Learning. The State Board of Education sets the standards and curriculum for the state.
âWe don’t teach anything outside of what the standards are,â said Julie Myers, director of middle and secondary education services for Frederick County Public Schools. “We are not teaching critical race theory and we have no intention of teaching critical race theory because it is not part of our curriculum.”
Myers is co-chair of the School Division Equity Task Force. The division began implementing its equity initiative in 2018.
âWe want to be respectful and not to divide,â Myers said. âWe try to create an inclusive, safe and welcoming learning environment for everyone in our learning community. “
Roy Echeverria, who co-chairs the division’s task force, said fairness is about trying to meet the unique needs of one child, and that doesn’t mean it will be at the expense of another group.
Frederick County Public Schools plan to hold a town hall in the 2021-22 school year to better educate the public about its equity efforts and what they mean to students and staff, Myers said.
When asked if CRT is part of the state’s curriculum, Virginia Department of Education spokesperson Charles Pyle replied, âNowhere in the standards does it There is a requirement for schools to teach critical breed theory or to incorporate critical breed theory when presenting required content.
The state-established history and social science curriculum can be viewed at: https://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/history/index.shtml. They are undergoing a review which should be completed by November 2022.
Some community members and local elected officials have called the equity work in FCPS “anti-white” and “Marxist.” At the Frederick County Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday night, for example, Back Creek District Supervisor Shawn Graber asserted that Critical Breed Theory has been implemented over the past few years in the county schools alongside school division equity initiatives.
Taylor said that just because terms like “systemic racism” or “anti-racism” are used in a classroom doesn’t mean that students learn Critical Race Theory, because CRT is an in-depth and focused methodology. , not a mere term or an occasional act. .
History classes on African American history are not critical forms of teaching racial theory, it’s just inclusive history, she said.
In the 2020-21 school year, Winchester Public Schools were included in a state pilot program to teach African American and Latin American elective history courses at Handley High School.
Some state legislatures propose and pass legislation to prevent the teaching of these courses.
âWe shouldn’t be afraid to teach history,â said WPS Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum. “Teaching the full significance of the story shouldn’t lead to shame or blame either.”
He also said: “You won’t find a critical race theory in Winchester public schools, and it is unfortunate that this national dialogue has been used at the state and local levels to somehow hijack the good fairness work in our schools. “
Van Heukelum stressed that he was proud of the division’s commitment to fairness. Last year, the Winchester School Board adopted an equity policy that holds the school division accountable for providing equitable results for all students. The policy defines “educational equity” as the inability to predict the outcome of a student’s achievement based on sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, color, national origin, disability, religion, economic status or languages ââspoken at home.
In Clarke County Public Schools, Superintendent Chuck Bishop said school staff work with students to understand cultural differences and that teaching cultural empathy, for example, is not equivalent. to the critical theory of race.
âWe can teach each other to be respectful, to understand individual differences without a program specified as [critical race theory]”said the bishop.
LMCC plans to relaunch its Equity and Diversity Committee in the next school year. The committee would advise the school board on how to ensure equitable access and opportunities for all students in the division.
In neighboring Loudoun County, a recent school board meeting erupted over transgender policies and the school division’s alleged adoption of critical race theory, according to the Loudoun Times-Mirror.
Taylor said disinformation about CRT can cause people to oppose values ââthey actually support, such as inclusion.
âNationally, disinformation is rife on critical race theory,â Taylor said. âAt the local level, this misinformation annoys people in their communities. “
Two candidates for the Shawnee District seat at the Frederick County School Board have addressed critical race theory and associated terms, saying they must prevent such ideas from influencing public schools in County of Frederick. Frederick.
Candidate Miles Adkins said he believes the school division’s equity initiative falls under critical race theory.
Another candidate, David Stegmaier, who currently represents the Shawnee District on the Frederick County Board of Supervisors, opposed funding of $ 125,000 for an equity and diversity coordinator for the school division. The post has been removed from the division’s budget.
Stegmaier told The Star he thinks the terms fairness and critical race theory are the same thing.
“I believe the term ‘fairness’ was co-opted by the left in order to racially divide us,” Stegmaier said in an email. âThis is why I strongly opposed funding the position of Equity and Diversity Coordinator in Frederick County.
If elected to the school board, Stegmaier said he would recommend removing the term equity and bringing back terms such as âstudent supportâ.
âThe State Department of Education and the State Board of Education use the concept of ‘fairness’ to create racial antagonism and divide Virginians,â Stegmaier said.