The proposed ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT) pushed by three newly elected school board trustees on the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD) board takes the education of thousands of students to a place no democracy should go.

Censorship is un-American. Taking away academic freedom and weakening public education is un-American. Yet, three trustees want to make those very things public school policy.

Trustees Marilyn Anderson, Leandra Blades, and Shawn Youngblood are well aware that a CRT course is not taught in any California K-12 public school district and that there is no plan or proposal to do so.

Trustees Leandra Blades, Shawn Youngblood, and Marilyn Anderson. Photo credit: Gaston Castellanos

Nevertheless, the three culture warriors want broad censorship. At the November 16th board meeting, Trustee Youngblood stated that he wants to prohibit discussion of concepts such as “white supremacy, privilege, structural or systematic racism or colorblindness, among others.” Note that most of us parents want strong academics, mental health services, Ethnic Studies, critical thinkers, competitive well-rounded students, and efforts to push for equity, diversity, and inclusion at all public schools.

At that same meeting, Trustee Anderson said she wants to prohibit discussing even the possibility that the United States is systemically racist, or that “one race is inherently or intentionally racist and/or responsible for stereotyping, scapegoating, and oppression of another race.” How can you have a discussion of slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow, Women’s Suffrage or the Civil Rights era without discussing those concepts? Students need to also discuss World War II and the Holocaust, right? Meanwhile, all of the advances our society has made in dealing with issues of race would also be prohibited.

Trustee Blades has stated that there is no such thing as institutional racism, to justify a school district policy that curbs learning real history. It’s a breathtaking limit on academic freedom that every American, regardless of political party, should resist. Our country’s history of segregation and discrimination must be taught honestly in order to prevent that cruelty from happening again.

All three Board members claim CRT stigmatizes white students as oppressors and students of color as the oppressed but do not present a shred of proof to back that up.

In fact, the three have taken a position using the philosophy and language of prominent white supremacists who frame ANY discussion of race in America as anti-white. It is outrageous that Blades, Anderson, and Youngblood would use such a discredited proposition as a basis for school policy.

What the PYLUSD Board and district staff should be doing is listening to students who have spoken up about the racism they currently experience at district schools instead they got harassed and ridiculed by the small group of angry White parents at the same school board meetings. Instead of promoting dialogue, these three trustees want to shut down discussion at the very moment honest conversation about race in America is urgently needed. Social justice matters and local families want students to feel safe and supported at school.

At the very least, responsible school board trustees should be willing to re-examine their support for views on any issue favored by racists.

Let’s trust the existing work the district directors with degrees have done on the Ethnic Studies course these past few years. Students and parents want a more accurate and multidimensional curriculum. Introduce the Ethnic Studies course publicly as per school policy and get feedback from all stakeholders. We cannot change our past but we are all responsible for being honest about it.

The great American writer James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” With all of our country’s achievements, we have been unable to tame racism and the resulting bloodshed and tragedy.

Education is the search for truth. We won’t find that with bans and unconstitutional limits on academic freedom and speech. It’s too late for Anderson, Blades, and Youngblood to learn that lesson. It’s up to every American parent and student in the district to stand together in defense of academic freedom, public education and truth telling.

Patricia Hanzo is a concerned PYLUSD parent, and community advocate that has experience in the field of social work.  She has worked with child neglect and abuses cases at family centers and later worked with policy administration for public social services at the county level. She is on the Community Development Citizen’s Committee (CDCC) of Fullerton to make recommendations regarding federal tax dollars, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), that fund some local nonprofit organizations, and city improvement projects.

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