Cal State Fullerton will hold off on sending more student teachers to the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District after district trustees voted to ban Critical Race Theory from the classroom earlier this year.
The university informed the district of the decision in a Monday statement from College of Education Dean Lisa Kirtman and the college’s leadership team.
There are currently 6 student teachers in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District but there are usually 70 to 80, according to the statement.
“The placement of student teachers in Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD), at this time, would place us in conflict with our goals to prepare teacher candidates with pedagogical approaches rooted in diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, race and gender theories, cultural linguistic studies, social emotional well-being, and tenets of Critical Race Theory,” the statement reads.
Academics on a panel hosted by Cal State Fullerton educators last year said the theory 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.
[Read: Cal State Fullerton Hosts Critical Race Theory Panel Amid Heated National Debate]
Opponents say the theory is being used to politically indoctrinate children.
District Superintendent Michael Matthews said in a Monday statement that the district values their partnership with the university and hopes discussions can resume on bringing student teachers back to the district.
“While we respect the University’s right to make this determination, we are disappointed by their decision to pause the placement of new student teachers in our district,” he wrote.
The decision comes months after district trustees narrowly voted 3-2 to ban Critical Race Theory in April, despite district officials repeatedly saying the theory is not being taught in schools.
[Read: Placentia-Yorba Linda School Trustees Narrowly Ban Critical Race Theory]
“It seems that Cal State Fullerton’s decision has been made based on the resolution of the PYLUSD school board,” said Trustee Shawn Youngblood, a supporter of the ban, in an email Tuesday when asked for his response to the university’s decision.
Trustee Leandra Blades, a staunch supporter of the ban, criticized Cal State Fullerton on Facebook and called it proof that critical race theory was “infiltrating” district schools.
“I find it extremely disrespectful and unprofessional that CSUF would send student teachers into our schools with the intention of bringing critical race theory and politics that do not align with our district curriculum,” Blades wrote on Facebook, providing Voice of OC with screenshots of her post.
“It’s a shame that CSUF is allowing politics to deprive their student teachers of this teaching experience. The only students being harmed by this political stance is the student teachers at CSUF,” she continued.
In a Wednesday email, Blades said teachers have told her that student teachers from Cal State Fullerton are not following the district’s curriculum.
Trustee Marilyn Anderson, who also voted for the ban, did not respond to a request for comment.
Alyssa Griffiths, the district spokeswoman, said that Cal State Fullerton is the only university that has paused the placement of student teachers in the district.
“With the recent decision, our school district now has a larger capacity to accept student teacher placement requests from other universities,” she wrote in a Wednesday email.
Placentia-Yorba Linda Jumps Into a National Debate
Across the country, bans on critical race theory have been implemented amid a debate on how U.S. history should be taught in the classroom.
That debate played out at school districts across Orange County last year.
[Read: Ethnic Studies and Critical Race Theory: A Tumultuous Year for OC School Boards]
However, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District is the only Orange County school district to ban Critical Race Theory – despite fierce opposition from some.
Some Placentia-Yorba Linda parents and students showed up to meetings in support of the ban, expressing concerns that the theory teaches that all white people are oppressors and racist, while victimizing people of color.
Proponents of the theory say that view is a mischaracterization driven by highly politicized misinformation campaigns.
In January, CSUF President Fram Virjee wrote a letter discouraging the board from passing the ban – calling it “content based censorship that flies in the face of our nation’s democracy.”
In his letter, he wrote that every year hundreds of the district’s students go to Cal State Fullerton, “the No. 1 producer of K-12 teachers in Orange County,” and those students often return to the school district as teachers and administrators.
“We are also proud that they come to you with the education to effectively explain and include CRT as well as Ethnic Studies in their classrooms as well as promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice for all,” he wrote.
Read Virjee’s letter here.
Cal State Fullerton’s College of Education leaders in August questioned the district’s commitment to inclusive and equitable education following the Critical Race Theory ban, according to Matthews.
“We assured College of Education leaders that our district remains firmly focused on doing just that, providing a just, equitable, and inclusive education for all students,” he wrote.
Matthews also points out that the resolution banning Critical Race Theory includes language that states the district condemns racism, values all students and is committed to creating a safe school environment.
Virjee isn’t the only one who opposed the ban.
Some parents, teachers and students fiercely opposed the ban calling it “censorship” and “political pandering” that would have a chilling effect on teachers when they teach lessons on issues like segregation and slavery.
It also received pushback from groups like PEN America, a literary rights organization, and the American Historical Association.
The issue is also playing out in this election.
Karen Freeman and Carrie Buck, the two trustees who voted against the ban, are both up for election this year and did not respond to requests for comment.
Todd Frazier, a parent who advocated for the ban, is now running for a seat on the Placentia-Yorba Linda school board against Freeman.
Buck is facing off with Richard Ingle, a parent, who on his campaign website has promised to keep Critical Race Theory out of the classroom.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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