National debate reaches Caldwell school board

·3 min read

Jul. 21—By Guy Lucas and Carmen Boone

Caldwell County has joined the growing number of counties where local school boards are being pushed by some parents to block the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

During the public comment portion of the Caldwell County Board of Education's meeting on Monday, Ronald King told the board members that Critical Race Theory should not be part of the curriculum because it could single out white children and degrade them in the classroom. He also argued that school children are too young to be learning about these ideas.

"It's unhealthy for children, it's unhealthy for society," King said. "Critical Race Theory tries to interject division. ... It divides us. It's not a positive environment for children."

Superintendent Don Phipps of the Caldwell County Schools, like other education officials across the state, says that Critical Race Theory is not part of what the local schools teach.

Critical Race Theory, according to the UNC-Chapel Hill history department, is a "scholarly framework that describes how race, class, gender, and sexuality organize American life." That means in part that racism has been part of America's past, but much of the critical commentary, both in North Carolina and nationally, equates it to calling America a racist nation and shaming white students. Critics also often mix in criticism of measures promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

Darrell Pennell, chairman of the Caldwell school board, said he has heard just a few comments about Critical Race Theory from parents.

But elsewhere in the state it has been a hot topic of discussion.

Republican legislators are promoting legislation they say would prevent schools from "indoctrinating" students by promoting Critical Race Theory concepts, Republican members of the State Board of Education charge that the state's new K-12 social studies standards incorporate Critical Race Theory, and in some counties, there have been heated arguments over it.

In Johnston County, the county commissioners threatened to withhold $7.9 million from the local schools until the school board passed a policy banning Critical Race Theory. In response, the school board amended its code of ethics to say that "instructional staff and other school system employees will not utilize methods or materials that would create division or promote animosity amongst students, staff and the community," and that "staff shall not teach social theories outside of the North Carolina standards of any kind to students."

Some school boards have included wording from the proposed state legislation in their own resolutions "to ensure dignity and nondiscrimination in schools."

Pennell said he is sure the issue will be brought up among a coming meeting of state education leaders.

"The next statewide school board association meeting is in August," he said, "and at that point we'll have an opportunity to get more feedback from other school districts."

Material from the Charlotte Observer via Tribune Content Agency was used in this story.

Material from the Charlotte Observer via Tribune Content Agency was used in this story.

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