Parents and candidates alike are expressing concern with the Huntsville city school system ahead of the upcoming Board Of Education (BOE) election.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) has rushed to the forefront of political discourse in recent years, especially in the realm of education.
While CRT is an academic legal theory that offers a particular perspective on marginalized or oppressed groups, it has become a common term applied to most teaching on gender equality, oppression, and racism, in legal, cultural, or pedagogical settings.
While some have bemoaned opponents of CRT for including gender and LGBTQ+ activism under the umbrella of CRT, founders of the theory repeatedly claimed that it is not limited to the legal realm.
Huntsville was the cause of controversy in December of 2021. A parent submitted a claim to the state BOE, decrying a teacher’s training course where certain tenets of CRT were discussed. The parent listed the key terms covered during the diversity training module presentation: Allyship, (White) Privilege, Equity, Implicit Bias, Racism, Racially Responsive Pedagogy, and Discrimination.
Angela McClure, who is running for the Huntsville BOE District 3, said she has personal experience with certain concepts being taught in Huntsville schools.
McClure said, “I have a daughter in seventh grade, and she was coming home with these really strange ideas; she was introduced to a lot of ideas that did not come from our home, ideas that she was persuaded by.
“This ideology that the liberals are pushing is in our schools; it's in our curriculum, and teachers are not being held accountable for what they say in the classroom. The children should not be exposed to who they are married to, what political party they like, and what gender they are. Teachers should not be asking children those kinds of questions.”
One example McClure provided was an email sent out by a guidance counselor from Huntsville city schools, Nancy Wolfe.
“I am trying to be open and inclusive with my students who prefer other pronouns and let them know I am supportive of them,” the email from Wolfe read.
"Including pronouns in your email signature and social media profiles is an important move towards inclusivity," said LGBT+ Inclusion Consultant Gina Battye. "It shows you care about individuals' preferences and is a simple solution to accidental misgendering.”
Several of those who spoke to 1819 News expressed concern with the incumbent District 4 candidate, Ryan Renaud, who has openly shared his recommendations for modern works on CRT. Books like White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, appeared on Renaud’s Facebook page, where he gave them as suggested reading.
Andrea Alvarez, who is running against McClure, expressed her desire to learn from both sides in the debate but does not wish to see indoctrination in the school system.
In reference to the guidance counselor’s email, Alvarez said she believed the counselor had the best of intentions which fell short due to the school system not providing proper guidance.
"The world is changing so fast,” Alvarez said. “I don’t think Huntsville City Schools has provided proper guidance to our teachers on how to handle these new social issues.
“I feel like that guidance counselor thought she was doing what she thought was the best thing to do to make her students feel inclusive, and I think it did read wrong, and I think it did offend people."
Alvarez said both sides of this debate should be heard.
"I think we need to be listening to everyone," said Alvarez. "I have kids in elementary school, and this is not a topic I was familiar with until entering this race, and I have been enlightened by the far-left and the far-right on how they feel about it. I think I have a good understanding of both sides. I think we can get to a middle ground where we are inclusive without doing any sort of indoctrination and without bringing it up to students who may not know about it otherwise.”
Sean Lulofs is running for Huntsville BOE District 2. Describing himself as a “lifelong conservative,” Lulofs claims that CRT-based teaching is to blame for the lack of discipline in the school system.
“Discipline has become an extreme problem for this school district,” Lulofs said. “One of the reasons is the CRT and SEL (social emotional learning) curriculum that is growing larger and larger every day.”
Alvarez said that any matters related to issues under the purview of individual school superintendents could not be voted on by the BOE unless the superintendent explicitly recommends such.
One parent, Josh Ulrich, spoke to 1819 news about his concern with teaching in the school system.
“The home is where the children’s moral principles arrive, for I cannot tell a child of a Muslim house not to be that religion,” Ulrich said. “But I can tell all children that American society respects the sanctity of life, the pursuit of liberty, and the American dream of happiness. It is not institutionally racist.
“CRT is racist and not a part of American society. Learning comes from failure, but not from condemnation. Our schools must recognize mistakes, but put forth solutions to overcome those mistakes toward the continual [striving] for good.”
State BOE President Pro Tempore from District 8, Wayne Reynolds, said that the BOE has implemented sufficient guidelines to prevent CRT or other such concepts from making their way into Alabama schools.
“The State BOE, and particularly me, decided we need to respond and not have any teaching that proposed an advantage for one race over another. “
Reynolds maintains that, other than the complaint in December, he has not seen any evidence that CRT or similar concepts are being taught in Alabama schools.
“The State Board of Education passed my motion regarding CRT,” Reynolds said. “We described the content so schools using the content but not using the term CRT could be prohibited from teaching. Don’t be distracted by political rhetoric or campaign propaganda. Anyone asserting we teach CRT in any Alabama School must provide proof, and the State Board of Education will act.”
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