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Despite facing anger from a group of conservative parents over what they claim is racist training, Brevard public school officials show no signs of reconsidering a summer program so far. to teach staff about social and emotional learning.
Members of the conservative parent group Moms for Liberty at Tuesday’s school board meeting slammed a deal to buy 53 tickets to the Conscious Discipline Institute, a summer program teaching school staff to implement social learning and Emotional (SEL) in classrooms, at a cost of $79,500.
SEL techniques teach students interpersonal skills and self-awareness to help them manage their emotions and resolve conflicts. But Moms for Liberty parents present at the meeting criticized a 2020 blog post on the website titled “Raising Antiracist Kids: 9 Steps from Ibram X. Kendi.”
Kendi is an anti-racism activist, author, and director of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research. The organization linked to a free webinar where Kendi spoke.
“That’s $79,500 going towards CRT training for teachers,” Moms for Liberty member Katie Delaney said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s ongoing racist training.”
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Ashley Hall, Brevard president of Moms for Liberty, said her group wants more transparency from the district about what program BPS staff will attend.
“We were just trying to bring up the issue: ‘Who is this organization? Why are we spending so much money on this, and how are we supposed to know that these ideologies are not inserted into this training? …I know they’ve been using conscious discipline for a while now. We have teachers in our group (who) speak highly of the program itself, but have also seen some of the changes that have been made over the last couple of years that have gone a bit to the left.
Counter-interpretation or anti-racist training?
As political debates around critical race theory and LGBTQ rights have taken center stage in school board meetings across the country, social and emotional learning has sometimes been caught in the crossfire.
In November, Asra Nomani, vice president of the conservative group Parents Defending Education, called social and emotional learning a “Trojan horse for bringing critical race theory and LGBTQ+ curriculum to the classroom” across America. This fall, parent groups in states like Texas, Indiana and Washington pushed back on SEL programs.
BPS spokesperson Russell Bruhn said he was not aware of any district plans to reconsider sending staff to the Conscious Discipline Institute, and school board president Misty Belford said said the district was unlikely to walk away from the program. Belford added that the summer institute was approved by the state as part of BPS’s reopening plan and has nothing to do with critical race theory.
“Conscious discipline has been around for a long time,” Belford said. “And the curriculum elements we teach have nothing to do with the ‘raising an anti-racist child’ blog post on the website. It’s really about how to encourage good choices in children and how to respond when children make bad choices and a positive way to redirect them.
“I’m a bit confused by how social-emotional learning has been transformed into what it has been by some groups. I think it’s just a misinterpretation.
Belford said the training is particularly important due to the disruption and emotional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Students deal with a lot of big emotions that I don’t think our students have had to deal with in, goddamn, decades,” Belford said.
On Tuesday, school board member Matt Susin said the training would not take place until the summer, giving the district ample time to ensure the training is appropriate. He told FLORIDA TODAY in an interview on Friday that he expected the best and had no reason to worry about conscious discipline.
“Everything Conscious Discipline has done with our schools has been in accordance with rules and regulations, and no CRTs have been taught,” Susin said. “And we hope to continue that with them and look forward to continuing to work with them to help our children.”
Hall said his group is not opposed to the training as long as it deals strictly with the emotional health of students. To keep parents comfortable, Hall said the district should share the materials or access to the training itself so they can see that no critical race theories have infiltrated the teachings. .
“I think parents should have an open invitation to training,” Hall said. “As long as we could see what the training materials are and see it for ourselves, so we could feel comfortable that these ideologies weren’t creeping in.”