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Paso school district passes ban on teaching critical race theory 

Clapping, booing, whooping, and argumentative outbursts from the audience peppered Paso Robles Joint Union High School District's Aug. 10 meeting.

"We want to get through this in an orderly process, so no cat-calling, no interrupting the speaker," school board President Chris Arend said after a disruptive outburst during public comment about an agenda item considering a ban on teaching critical race theory (CRT) in the district.

click to enlarge CRT IS OUT On Aug. 10, the Paso Robles Joint Union High School District voted to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in most cases.  - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • CRT IS OUT On Aug. 10, the Paso Robles Joint Union High School District voted to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in most cases. 

But attendees paid little heed to his plea during the emotional final hearing of the district's months-long conversation over the controversial academic theory. At a June 22 meeting, Arend introduced a resolution he penned (download .pdf) that would prohibit teaching CRT in the district, except for including instruction that focuses on the academic theory's flaws. The board declined to vote on the issue at that meeting, pending further discussion.

"We need to be focused on transportation. You're considering closing a school. Why are we wasting time?" Shannon Gonzalez said during the Aug. 10 meeting. "I'm really disappointed, sorry to point you out President Arend, but your personal ideology is being brought to the tables when it's not relevant."

Gonzalez, other speakers, and some school board members said that the CRT ban addresses a non-issue, because the theory isn't taught in Paso schools and isn't a part of California curriculum. Proponents said the idea is to get in front of an issue that would label students as victims or oppressors due to the color of their skin.

"I feel like although critical race theory isn't being officially taught in our schools, I feel like we need to take a stand," said one mom, who recently transferred her kids into the district from being homeschooled. "I feel like if critical race theory would be allowed to be taught in our schools, all that does is create division."

The hearing only allotted 20 minutes total for public speakers due to the hours of testimony the board had heard during previous meetings on the issue. One by one, board members weighed in, with each saying they were against CRT being taught in the district. The board voted 4-3 (with board members Nathan Williams, Tim Gearheart, and Chris Bausch dissenting) in favor of the original resolution Arend penned—something Williams took particular issue with.

"The very definition of contradiction," Williams said. "The resolution does not ban the teaching of critical race theory. It only controls the way that it's taught. It explicitly allows it to be included, but only how one side wants it to be included. That goes against the very nature of education, in my opinion."

He added that the district's Administration Regulation (AR) 6144 (downlaod .pdf) passed in 1998 already governs how controversial issues can be discussed in the classroom: They can be talked about as long as the discussion provides opportunities for critical thinking, developing tolerance, and understanding conflicting points of view.

Gearheart stated that students don't have the skills they need to adequately understand and discuss CRT. He compared it to teaching algebra to second graders who hadn't yet learned multiplication.

"The most important thing is for them to develop high-level thinking skills," Gearheart said. "You need to be able to analyze. Use the information and identify what fits and doesn't fit and then apply it. Our kids aren't ready for something like that."

Board member Jim Reed claimed that CRT's narrative is that all whites are racist oppressors, that society as a whole is systemically racist, and that "from the day that the United States was founded that's what we've been doing."

"The truth is all Americans have not been racists and oppressors, only some have been," Reed said. "It's imperative that we teach truth in our classrooms."

CRT is a form of anti-racism that justifies using present discrimination to deal with past discrimination, which has no place in Paso's schools, Bausch said. However, he argued that the argument over critical race theory has been more dangerous than the theory itself. The district had received a lot of emails, he added, but many of them falsely claiming the ethnic studies course approved earlier in the year is the same thing as CRT.

Bausch accused the board of micromanaging its stance on racism—the district passed a ban on racism in any form earlier this year—and called the resolution an act of censorship and indoctrination that's a slippery slope.

"Government-enforced censorship in our schools should be a major cause for concern. It prevents students with enquiring minds from exploring the world ... and becoming critical thinkers," Bausch said. Δ

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