Few local schools hear concerns about critical race theory, but subtle echoes of the national debate can be heard in Yakima County.
Community members from West Valley and Selah asked at school board meetings whether theory is being taught in local schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The East Valley Superintendent has received calls from community members in recent months regarding critical breed theory. A candidate for the Yakima school board wrote in her platform statement that “critical theory programs must be banned.” US Congressman Dan Newhouse from Sunnyside recently signed a bill which would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools.
But what is critical race theory? And is this taught in K-12 schools?
The short answer: “No,” said Kevin Chase, superintendent of Educational Service District 105, an agency that supports area schools. “There is no critical program of racial theory. There is no requirement. It is not a standard.
Critical Race Theory is not taught at any school in Yakima County, and opponents of the study confuse it with diversity, equity and inclusion training for adults in education. , did he declare. They also misrepresent that any curriculum related to critical race theory or diversity, equity and inclusion is taught to students.
Here’s what you need to know to understand the conversation:
What is Critical Race Theory?
Critical Race Theory was developed in the 1980s as a lens through which jurists ask questions, and “is a way of examining the role of law as a platform, facilitator, producer, and even isolator. racial inequalities in our country ”, Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the pioneers of the academic discipline, recently told Columbia News.
It is taught at some universities – mainly law schools like Columbia Law School – to explain how systems can contribute to disparities between different racial groups.
While decades-old academic practice recently struck a chord in mainstream news, those involved in it – including national lawmakers – have described critical race theory as a way to blame White people or making white students feel bad.
Newhouse recently described it as a way to “teach students to be ashamed of our country and to judge each other based on the color of their skin” in a Press release announcing his co-signing of two bills combating what he described as the use of critical race theory in public jobs and schools.
But Crenshaw said the practice is to criticize systems, not individuals.
Is Critical Race Theory Taught in Yakima County Schools?
No. Chase and several local school administrators said academic practice was not implemented here.
“We have a lot to teach, and this isn’t one of them,” Chase said. “We actually have Washington State standards that every child should know and be able to demonstrate, and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Selah Superintendent Shane Backlund recently spoke about the issue at a school board meeting to allay concerns as he began to hear more interest in the topic in the community.
“I have heard that there is a belief that CRT, in and of itself, is a form of racism,” he said last week. “I can say with certainty that we will not teach or promote anything that perpetuates racism. We try to create a place where all students and staff feel like they belong. This is the heart of our work.
What is the new training on diversity, equity and inclusion?
The Washington Legislature recently passed a new law require school staff and board members to take training in cultural competency, diversity, equity and inclusion.
The law highlights racial disparities in academic performance as the reason for creating the requirement. It also lists ethnicity, disability status, religion, primary language and sexual orientation as examples of the “diversity” it aims to address by ensuring “full access to engagement and participation. to available activities and opportunities ”.
The training is intended for adults. There is no component for the student-oriented curriculum, said Brittany Kaple, marketing coordinator for ESD 105. Adult education in the district, ranging from paraprofessionals to administrators and school board members, is a way to help educators meet the needs and learning styles of all children. by learning about potential obstacles to help them overcome.
She said parents can always check the program of any kind by asking their school or district for materials in advance.
Kirsten Fitterer, communications director for Yakima School District, echoed the comments.
“I hope (parents) can trust us enough to know that they can ask us anything about what their children are taught,” she said, adding that the diversity training , equity and inclusion does not include a student program. “We want parents in every district to feel they can trust their school, their principal. “
Is Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DCI) training new?
Kaple said diversity and equity have long been part of education in the Yakima Valley.
“The idea of this is not new, and certainly not in the Valley,” Kaple said. “We are finding ways to support these groups to help close these gaps and help them reach the same level. “
She said the free preschool programs in the Yakima Valley funded by the state and the federal government to support students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are an example of this long-standing practice.
Chase said another example is helping students whose first language is not English become proficient in the language so that they can access teaching materials and be successful in school.
In Yakima School District, a 300-person strategic planning committee made up of students, parents, community members and business leaders helped set up a six-year program neighborhood roadmap. Released in early 2020, one of the strands is Equity Work.
“It was long before a law was put in place,” Fitterer said.
The change created by the new law, said Chase, is that training in these areas is now an expectation for all school districts to implement statewide, and school board members are now expected to participate. For many schools, this won’t create any change, he said.