The superintendent of the closest school district to Aspen, David Baugh, can tell, much of it started when Joyce Rankin, in a column published about his district in the Steamboat Springs Pilot & Today, accused his district of violating the Colorado law.
“Recently the parents of Aspen High School brought to my attention a serious problem,” wrote Rankin, wife of Republican Senator from Colorado, Bob Rankin. “The principal and several teachers have formed an ‘equity team’. They explained that it was to help them resolve the “complex issue of fairness”. “
The equity team – in which “no parents or community actors were included,” laments Rankin, “developed a survey that included questions of a private and personal nature and made it a mandatory task. Class time was allowed for the survey to be completed and submitted. Students were invited to submit their work anonymously. “
Rankin goes on to say that because the school conducted an investigation even anonymously without first obtaining permission from a parent or guardian, the school broke Colorado law.
But the outcry then spread beyond Rankin’s initial concerns – namely, legal and privacy concerns surrounding how personal information can be used – to claims that the school district was teaching a critical theory of privacy. race, which seeks to examine how race underlies other social infrastructure such as system.
Baugh said he had around 15, maybe 20 parents “who are concerned about critical breed theory.” He even found himself Googling the topic, as it wasn’t entirely clear how a few questions about feelings of safety in the school environment regardless of sexual orientation or religious affiliation in an anonymous survey have led to a critical theory of race.
“I scratched my head, come on, how do we talk about critical race theory?” he said. “I don’t have much to say about it except that it’s not a useful construct for us in the classroom. It is just not a useful way for us to engage with our students and teachers. “
In the end, he – and the Aspen School District, for that matter – wasn’t alone. Across the country, school district leaders (and for the most part conservative state lawmakers) are grappling with concerned and sometimes angry parents and stakeholders who criticize the programs for including the academic school of thought, even when these districts insist that they do not teach it.
In Carmel, Indiana, for example, a group of parents sparked debate in the community after presenting to the school board the reasons why a recently hired Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer should. be removed from office – not the person who was hired to fill the position. in January of this year, but to eliminate the entire position, according to reports from WRTV Indianapolis. This week, lawmakers in Idaho and Tennessee banned the teaching of critical race theory; Texas, apparently, is not far behind.
But Baugh said Aspen did not teach critical race theory – nor any of the recent academic movements that might be considered adjacent, including the New York Times’ Project 1619 and the Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites.
“We’re not going to do that either,” Baugh said. “I’m neither on the right nor on the left, I’m just a teacher, and that’s really it.
He and Aspen High School principal Sarah Strassburger explained this in a community email they co-signed on May 4.
“We have recently received a lot of concerns about the direction ASD is going, and AHS in particular. We want to respond publicly and transparently to these concerns, ”the email begins. “First, to those who think we teach Critical Race Theory, we want to say that is not true! Neither of us supports or endorses this position, and it is not part of ASD’s agenda. To be clear, trying to meet the needs of each student where they are is not critical race theory, it is good public education. Further, ensuring that all students are seen, heard and celebrated is not a critical race theory. “
What the school district stubbornly includes is the International Baccalaureate, or IB, curriculum, which emphasizes critical thinking.
“It’s a holistic approach that has been recognized internationally for its rigor and for opening doors for students from all over the world to become critical thinkers and global citizens – goals that we wholeheartedly support and embrace. strive to achieve, ”the email continued. “We do not accept or support either of the two controversial programs; 1776 Unites nor 1619. While both have some talking points, we believe that the ability to think critically and make your own informed decisions about beliefs is the hallmark of a strong education system.
Baugh said on Friday that so far the responses he has heard from that email have been positive.
“We were just trying to say hello, we don’t engage in these behaviors. We’re just trying to teach a program that has been proven globally, ”he said.