Rebecca Kleefisch accuses education conference of promoting critical race theory. Educators say she's got the wrong CRT

Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch released a video on Monday accusing two Sun Prairie teachers and a host of state education officials of promoting critical race theory at a professional development conference for K-12 teachers but the educators said Kleefisch got the topic of the training wrong.

At issue are the initials "CRT." In a two-minute video posted to her Twitter account, Kleefisch said a training being offered at a statewide conference for teachers in Wisconsin Dells this week was teaching educators how to bring critical race theory to classrooms because the session was titled "CRT: How to build relationships, empower student voice and respect cultural perspectives."

"The saddest part of this is it's for grade levels kindergarten through 12 — it says right here," Kleefisch, a Republican candidate for governor, said in the video. "Why did Democrats keep lying to us and telling us that CRT is not being taught in our schools?"

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But organizers of the training told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Kleefisch is referring to the wrong "CRT" and that the sessions are about culturally responsive teaching, which is at times also referred to as "CRT" by educators and has been incorporated in teaching for years to ensure the backgrounds of all students are acknowledged in lessons.

"I watched the video and it says the session is about Critical Race Theory. Session 84 is NOT about Critical Race Theory it is about Culturally Responsive Teaching. We did update the online schedule so that we do not refer to the session as CRT without spelling out Culturally Responsive Teaching," Jim Lynch, executive director of the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, said by email following an inquiry from the Journal Sentinel.

The flap prompted Sun Prairie School District Superintendent Brad Saron to issue a statement about the misunderstanding.

"Some have misinterpreted the acronym ‘CRT’ in the session description to stand for ‘Critical Race Theory’ and are using social media to spread the message that District teachers are promoting the use of Critical Race Theory with students. That is a misinterpretation of the intended use of the acronym ‘CRT’ in the title of the presentation," Saron said in a press release.

"The title of the presentation has now been updated to ensure clarity, and the District apologizes in advance for any confusion the misinformation circulating on social media may have caused."

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Kleefisch did not take the video down after learning the session's "CRT" did not refer to critical race theory. Instead, Kleefisch accused the educators without evidence of a cover up, citing a separate document unrelated to the conference that one of the teachers leading the session helped prepare that referred to critical race theory as the initials "CRT."

"It wasn’t until after Rebecca released her video that they changed the description to avoid scrutiny," Alec Zimmerman, spokesman for Kleefisch, said in a statement.

Lynch said organizers added context after the Journal Sentinel reached out to them to avoid more confusion.

"At no time did anyone represent this as critical race theory. It's not what the session was ever about. It was never described that way," he said. "It's not correct to say that this was ever listed as critical race theory ... that it was listed that way or that it was in fact going to be that."

Conservatives like Kleefisch are focused on eliminating the use of critical race theory, a decades-old theory that focuses on the idea that racism is systemic. It is typically used in law schools and graduate-level coursework.

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Culturally responsive teaching is a practice used in K-12 schools that seeks to reflect students' backgrounds in lessons to help children better connect to what they're learning, according to American University's School of Education.

"The benefits of culturally responsive teaching are undeniable. Not only does it improve student success rates across the board but it also fosters positive relationships between families and school communities and promotes inclusion in schools and education systems," according to the school's website.

In Kleefisch's video, she said Democrats are lying about critical race theory not being in K-12 schools — specifically Sen. Chris Larson of Milwaukee.

"All CRTs aren’t the same," Larson said in a Facebook post Monday afternoon. "Wait until she finds out about the Calculus Readiness Test. Or Community Resource Teams. Or she discovers the Crunchy Red Tacos at Taco Bell. Extra dangerous if you put the Fire sauce on them."

Contact Molly Beck at molly.beck@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MollyBeck.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kleefisch misinterpreted 'CRT' training session, educators say