Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District trustees are expected to ban the use and teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) at their meeting tonight amid uproar from students and parents.
They may become the first school district trustees in Orange County to do so, despite officials there repeatedly saying the theory isn’t currently taught in the district.
Alyssa Griffiths, a spokesperson for the district, said in an email last week that the district trustees have not banned other theories or material from being taught in recent years.
“However, the district dates back to 1874 and I cannot speak for all 148 years of our history,” she said.
All five trustees did not respond to emailed questions on the proposed ban.
The theory, academics say, is a framework taught in graduate level courses, primarily law school, that examines the role racism has played in shaping society’s institutions, social structures and laws.
But pushback on the theory – which dates back decades – has started to pop up in recent years with concern nationwide that it teaches students that all white people are oppressors and racist, while victimizing people of color.
“The claim that CRT teaches that all white people are oppressors and all people of color are victims is inaccurate and, in fact, unrelated to Critical Race Theory,” said UC Davis law professor Lisa Ikemoto in an email last week.
“The fact that relatively few people have heard of or know of Critical Race Theory makes it easy to use as a straw target. The mischaracterization of CRT looks like an effort to deny and thus enable the persistence of racism,” she continued.
The proposed ban comes after months of debate in the Placentia-Yorba Linda school district, with some parents showing up to school board meetings imploring trustees to ban teachers from using the theory in the classroom.
Todd Frazier, a parent, said at a district board meeting last week that Critical Race Theory needs to be banned.
“We talk about slavery. We talk about Jim Crow laws – we’re not talking about taking that out. We’re saying don’t divide our people by what they look like. We need to teach inclusivity, we need to teach everybody is treated equal. CRT does the opposite. It divides us based on race,” he said.
The expected ban comes as school district officials, parents, educators and students across the country wrestle with how history – including slavery and Jim Crow laws – should be taught in K-12 schools and following push for ethnic studies courses to be taught in high school.
It is a debate that has become increasingly politicized, leading to local recall efforts and even forcing a school board meeting online over safety concerns.
[Read: Ethnic Studies and Critical Race Theory: A Tumultuous Year for OC School Boards]
The resolution banning Critical Race Theory will be up for a vote when trustees meet tonight at 6 p.m. The meeting can be attended in person or streamed live on the district website.
Meanwhile, students along with other parents have been pushing back against the ban, also speaking out at board meetings worried about the consequences such action would have on history classes.
[Read: Placentia-Yorba Linda School District Trustees to Ban Critical Race Theory; Criticism Soars]
They say the ban will silence student voices and limit conversations on racism, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion.
“It will have a chilling effect on teachers because there has been so much confusion about the definition of CRT and what the trustees want banned,” said Priya Shah, a parent and a Women and Gender Studies professor at Cal State Fullerton. “I think it will undermine the ability for our classes in general to stay up to date and share the latest scholarship with our students.”
Shah, who teaches about racism stretching back to the colonial period, argued that the claim that critical race theory teaches all white people are oppressors and all people of color are oppressed is false.
“Critical Race Theory doesn’t say either of those. In fact, it argues that race is a social construction,” she said. “There’s no inherent qualities for any given race. White people are not all oppressors. That’s the opposite of what Critical Race Theory teaches.”
Ikemoto said a ban on Critical Race Theory in K-12 education would likely not affect the current curriculum because the theory is not taught in those schools.
“But a ban would send a message that restricting access to knowledge and intellectual development is acceptable,” she said.
Groups like PEN America, a literary rights organization, and the American Historical Association have also criticized the proposed ban.
Parents also worry the ban could affect Advanced Placement courses offered in the district.
College Board – the group that sets the required teaching topics for these courses – has warned if a school bans one of their topics taught in the Advanced Placement (AP) courses they offer, that course will no longer be considered (AP).
“I am definitely concerned about its impact on AP classes,” Shah said. “The definition they have right now that they’re banning, includes race as a social construction and racism as systemic. Those are two very basic facts about race and racism and if you can’t teach that, you can’t teach a lot of AP material.”
Griffiths said in her email that the district is aware of the concern from parents about what the ban could mean for advanced placement courses.
“We want to reassure stakeholders that the district has no intention to proceed with any action that would inhibit its ability to continue to offer AP courses and content,” she said in her email.
“If the resolution is approved by the Board at the April 5 Board Meeting, the district will need time to review the finalized language with legal counsel, College Board, and other entities before determining next steps. We will communicate applicable information directly with our stakeholders thereafter,” she continued.
Two weeks ago, trustees held a study session to finalize language on the resolution after struggling to define the theory they are trying to ban for a while now.
They settled on the definition of the theory provided in the State’s ethnic studies model curriculum, which defines the theory as:
“Critical race theory (CRT) is a practice of interrogating race and racism in society. CRT recognizes that race is not biologically real but is socially constructed and socially significant. It acknowledges that racism is embedded within systems and institutions that replicate racial inequality — codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy.”
[Read: Placentia-Yorba Linda School Trustees Poised to Ban Critical Race Theory Amid Uproar]
To read the full resolution click here.
Trustee Leandra Blades said at the study session that the ban is not about limiting history class or removing content, but stopping teachers from saying all white people are racist, which she calls Critical Race Theory.
Shah said many of the concepts the trustees want to ban are beyond Critical Race Theory itself.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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