COLUMBIA CITY — There was plenty of discussion Monday evening but the idea seemed to be shared by all — the teaching of Critical Race Theory is “not appropriate” for K-12 education.
This was an agreement made in writing through a resolution approved by the Whitley County Consolidated School Board at its most recent meeting. It states an understanding that the idea is taught at a university level but would not be appropriate for students in K-12 as it is not a state academic standard.
The vote was not entirely unanimous, though, with eight voting to approve the resolution and School Board Member Tim Bloom abstaining.
Bloom reasoned that Critical Race Theory had never been taught in the schools and it would be “meaningless” to pass the resolution.
“It’s attempting to address an issue that is not a problem in this district,” Bloom said. He added concerns that passing a resolution might send a different kind of message.
School Board Member Stan Meyer shared surprise that things have changed so much in his years of teaching.
“It never crossed my mind we would be talking about this,” he said. “I don’t disagree with the resolution — I don’t know if it does any good by passing it, but I am against the teaching of Critical Race Theory.”
Helping bring the resolution to the table was Board Member James Renbarger. He expressed an idea for the resolution after seeing other schools in the state making decisions on the subject.
“I think it’s important we make a stand,” he said. “We don’t need to label our kids. We need to treat them all equally.”
Several members of the community were in attendance voicing their own opposition to the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the schools. Part of that concern was in the recent appointment by the board of a Social/Emotional Learning Coordinator position.
“Regretfully connections have been made between the coordinator position that was approved at the May board meeting (to this),” said School Superintendent Laura McDermott. “Let me be clear: We have no intention of connecting these two at Whitley County Consolidated Schools. We have no intention of using the work we are doing to support at risk students as a back door for teaching Critical Race Theory. Our goal has always been, and continues to be, the social and emotional well being of our students.”
McDermott emphasized that in the last year many students have suffered hardships that need to be addressed for their well-being. The job of the Social/Emotional Learning Coordinator is to work with students, staff and families to identify the struggles students are facing now. The coordinator will then appear before the school board to propose a lesson plan that would address these issues.
McDermott shared to those in attendance, “We are not adversaries in this concern. We are here to do what is best for our children.”
She added, “It is in our district logo ‘Small Town Values.’ That is what we all believe and aspire to... WCCS teachers follow the Indiana Academic Standards. Critical Race Theory is not included in those standards. We will continue to teach Indiana Academic Standards.”
Board President Don Armstrong said, “we go through cycles of social and emotional stuff. Most of our children are so indoctrinated by social media and I’m not sure there is a good answer. I do think this resolution states pretty clearly what we do support.”
“I want to make sure our position as a board is clear,” said Board Member Jill Western. “At least we can publicly state our policy.”
“We are and will continue to be transparent in our approach to our children, our community and their learning,” said McDermott. “It is critical that we continue to connect with our families, with our children to ensure they learn we will get the barriers out of their way to reach their full potential.”