Orange County Board of Education Trustee Ken Williams wants to keep communism indoctrination along with a host of topics he calls “controversial” out of the classroom by implementing a policy that would ban educators from teaching them.
Under the California Education code, it is already forbidden for teachers to advocate for communism or indoctrinate a student to be a communist.
But that’s not the only thing Williams wants to ban.
Under Williams’ proposed policy, educators would also be forbidden from teaching curriculum that advocates for abolishing the police, or teaching that America is a white supremacist society or that systemic racial oppression exists in the United States.
Now residents are questioning why such a policy is necessary and if there is evidence of such indoctrination taking place in the county to demonstrate a need for a ban.
They came out to Wednesday’s board meeting and criticized the proposal as vague, urging trustees to stop considering the ban. Opponents to the ban included lawyers from Asian Americans Advancing Justice SoCal, a legal and civil rights organization.
Charles Evans, a supervising attorney for the organization, said the Asian American Pacific Islander community is still facing the consequences of systemic oppression including the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II and pointed to an increase in Asian hate.
“Similar or worse, stories can be told for the experiences of other people of color, and those of the LGBTQ plus communities. We’d be fooling ourselves if we ignore these facts and more,” Evans said.
Uyen Hoang, executive director of Viet Rainbow of OC – a local LGBTQ grassroots organization, also criticized the policy as “racist and backwards.”
“It denies the humanity and existence of many communities that call Orange County home and it breeds hate and promotes bigoted thinking in our students,” Hoang said at the meeting.
Her group on social media called on people to show up to the Wednesday meeting against the policy.
Williams said the purpose of the policy is not to hurt any racial group and that many language changes would be made to the policy with help from the board’s attorney.
He also said that he’s married to a Vietnamese woman and that his grandchildren are “mixed kids.”
“A lot of this specifically in here is, is just to create the concept that we are all the same, that regardless of our race, or gender, or sexual identity, we’re all the same,” Williams said.
Williams also said Critical Race Theory should be kept out of K-12 Schools and was supposed to follow the white paper the board put out on the theory.
“To create systems of instruction or pedagogies, that are based upon the concepts that their oppressors and oppressed in society, I think, is racism in and of itself,” Williams said. “It was not meant to impact anyone in a negative way, but was to give greater liberties and freedoms.”
Ethnic studies and law professors have said the notion that Critical Race Theory casts all white people as racist is a deliberate misrepresentation of what it is and that the national debate on theory is riddled with misinformation and confusion.
And school officials throughout Orange County have said it’s not taught in classrooms at the kindergarten through high school level.
Trustee Jorge Valdes said he views the policy as necessary and has spoken to parents who say they don’t go to public schools because they don’t like what is being taught.
“I’m concerned about, you know, this mass exodus in the public school system,” he said. “Something needs to be put on paper. I don’t think we can just not do anything.”
The policy, if approved, would apply to students in programs under the board’s authority which includes kids in special education programs, alternative schools, as well as juvenile hall students and not students in the school districts of Orange County, according to OC Department of Education Spokesman Ian Hanigan.
He also said would not apply to charter schools.
OC Superintendent Al Mijares reminded the board that they have to follow state law and other legislative bodies that weigh in on curriculum.
“And then remember too that every board, there’s 28 (school) districts, all with the duly elected boards, they have the authority to approve curriculum, because there’s plenty of opportunity in there to customize some of the curriculum,” he said.
“And that’s at the discretion of the local board.”
It is uncertain when the proposal will come back to the board for a vote.
Evans said the board has a responsibility to provide educational opportunities to the entire diverse student body they oversee.
“It’d be a failure of that responsibility if the board uses its limited power of a curriculum to misinform parents about school subjects, inhibit fruitful discussion on students of actual events, interfere with teachers and educators in managing their curriculum,” he said.
“And greatly overstep that limited authority granted to the board by its constituents, all while attempting to silence discussion of the very real experiences that have affected many thousands of Orange County students and their families.”
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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