A small number of dissidents in San Luis Obispo County’s largest school district fear that social and emotional learning is a “Trojan Horse” masking Critical Race Theory (CRT).
The group of concerned parents and community members had their voices heard when discussions about including personal development courses in the curriculum of the Lucia Mar Unified School District (LMUSD) took center stage. summer.
“I have reviewed the entire curriculum from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and in my opinion the main tone is critical racial theory of social justice, which in my opinion has no place. at Lucia Mar, “said Dawn Meek, a member of the August 3 district school board. board meeting. “I think that lets the bad guys into our classrooms,â¦ the mission statement of the people who are developing this program is a Trojan horse, and I’m strongly against it.”
In August, the LMUSD board voted to incorporate programs such as Caring School Community, Second Step and CharacterStrong for elementary, middle and high schools, respectively. All three programs aim to instill healthy coping mechanisms in children. The wide range of topics covers treating others kindly, acknowledging bullying, and self-management of anger and anxiety.
School officials said New times that the programs were intended to alleviate the stress of returning to in-person education after the pandemic forced students to unexpectedly study at home for more than a year. A coalition of teachers, school counselors and administrators planned the program.
It was also not the first time that LMUSD considered social and emotional learning. Former District Parents’ Organization member Julia Voge said the district has been considering introducing it since 2018, but criticism about it is new. Voge is a former elementary school teacher. She has two sons at Arroyo Grande High School.
âI support the program. Children of color do not decide if they are old enough to learn more about exclusion and racism. Suggest that just because our children are free from the impacts of being of one race or from a different culture doesn’t ‘It means they should be exempt from how it affects people,’ she said.
CharacterStrong, the high school curriculum, details practices and strategies for making schools more inclusive by identifying how racism manifests in educational spaces, according to its blog. Program staff said New times that CRT, which is a college-level speech often presented in law schools, is not taught.
âCharacterStrong is not grounded in critical breed theory and does not teach CRT,â said CharacterStrong co-founder John Norlin. âThere are no student courses related to legal policy or the law, and we do not offer content that implies that people or institutions are inherently racist. We believe in serving every school system and its community where they are and not impose ideologies or political programs. ”
The CRT examines the systemic nature of racism through policies and court decisions that can disadvantage under-represented groups, even if they are framed neutrally. School officials recognize that CRT cannot be taught to elementary school students, especially because it is advanced academic theory.
âIt would be like teaching international law to second-graders,â said Colleen Martin, school board member.
At the August 3 meeting, LMUSD deputy superintendent Hillery Dixon said some aspects of development programs had been incorporated into Monday morning meetings and CRT was not being taught. Amy Jacobs, the school district’s public information officer, confirmed this.
“We do not train our teachers to discuss critical race theory. Rather, we provide training for teachers on how to discuss potentially controversial issues in their classrooms in a fair and impartial manner, in accordance with policy. of our board, âshe wrote in an email. To New times.
But parents who believe that social and emotional learning (also known as SEL) is ingrained in CRT don’t feel reassured by the board audit process. Many of these parents belong to Central Coast Families for Education Reform (CCFER), which was started in 2020 by several parents who came together with the goal of bringing their children back to in-person learning.
âThey told us, ‘We’re not going to give teachers full access to the program. Teachers are only allowed to teach what we give them. ‘ But there is nothing written. There is really no assurance other than a handshake, âsaid Jeanette Holt, concerned parent and CCFER member.
Holt, mother of a seventh, ninth and eleventh year, and other parents met with Assistant Superintendent Dixon twice to review the program. Holt said Dixon is in control of the entire browsing process and parents cannot thoroughly review the documents.
But the district public information official said it was not.
âThey walked in and were able to review the documents in the office. They were not guided through the documents. They were free to examine at will,â Jacobs said.
When Holt researched what SEL could mean, she said she found connections to equity and the Black Lives Matter movement, which worried him.
âFairness is not equality. Equality is great. Fairness is ‘your friend doesn’t have what you have, and that’s not fair.’ You have to share, it doesn’t matter if you work for what you got and your friend probably didn’t, âshe said.
Christin Brittingham, a worried relative, said her rejections of SEL and teachers addressing race issues in the classroom don’t mean she wants history to be erased. She was concerned that teachers would pass on information that would make white children feel bad about their race. Brittingham, who said she was no longer CCFER’s director of communications, said she didn’t believe white privilege and systemic racism were real.
âJust because, maybe my ancestors, which I have no idea if they did,â¦ but I’m a white human and maybe there have been slaves in my history. But that doesn’t mean I have a slave and should [feel] bad for that. OK, this is history, we are learning it but we don’t do it anymore, âshe said.
Holt and Brittingham both said they heard of a former history professor at Judkins Middle School pushing an “agenda” by handing an assignment to his eighth-graders that criticized President Donald Trump. Brittingham sent New times a screenshot of part of the mission, which focused on a New York Times opinion piece on the hatred directed at Asian Americans during the pandemic. It included both biased and factual statements, including Trump calling COVID-19 “”Kung flu” and the “China plague. ”
The teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said New times that the lesson plan was to teach students to recognize the differences between a story and an editorial opinion. Students were also asked to critically analyze the article and write down their reactions. Taught in the 2020-21 school year, the lesson was not part of the district’s new social and emotional learning program.
Virginia Roof, a mother in the Lucia Mar District and a faculty member in the early childhood education department at Cuesta College, said the word “race” did not appear in this new curriculum.
“I hope SEL will even address race, not just for people of color but [also] so that white children know whiteness. It doesn’t mean that someone is attacking them, âsaid Roof, who is a representative of Lucia Mar Forward.
Lucia Mar Forward is a response to CCFER’s efforts to recall board members Don Stewart, Dee Santos and Martin for their votes on issues related to COVID-19. Roof said she didn’t see many parents engaging with CCFER during the program, but it’s clear that national concern over critical breed theory has reached SLO County.
“It’s part of being in a small, predominantly white town – the fear [from] don’t talk to people who are different from you, âshe said. âThe region is quite resistant to change. “Î
Contact Bulbul editor Rajagopal at [email protected]