Critical Race Theory, which examines social, cultural and legal issues as they relate to race and racism, will not be coming to Continental Elementary School District.

The district’s Governing Board voted unanimously Monday to prohibit specific concepts associated with CRT from making their way into the curriculum.

District administration has said it does not expect teachers to teach CRT and do not address it in any curriculum, but board member Shelley Kais, who introduced the resolution, said it was move to get ahead of the issue.

Don’t want it

Kais said she had been thinking about bringing a resolution on CRT to the board for several weeks as she watched the issue unfold at the national level.

“This has been a hot topic in school boards throughout the country and I like to be more strategic and visionary and anticipate,” she said Tuesday. “I have had a couple of parents expressing concerns but I have had a lot of constituents from Continental express concerns about CRT in schools.”

The resolution includes three major bullet points for material that should be excluded from class curriculums:

•That one race is inherently superior or inferior to another race;

•That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race; or

•That an individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race.

Kais said she looked to CRT resolutions or policies to develop her own and wanted to keep the language generic.

“I don’t think any of our teachers have considered teaching this and I don’t believe the admin have even ever addressed it,” she said. “I can’t speak for teachers, but my guess would be it hasn’t come up in the teacher’s lounge. What I thought was important to do was to create a generic statement supporting children and families and to ensure the administration was empowered to manage the curriculum.”

Kais said there are schools in Arizona that have adopted CRT into their coursework and she wants to prevent similar disruptive school board meetings here.

“We are weeks away from school starting again and summer school is in session. We can’t let anything cloud a strong 2021/22 opening,” she said.

For Kais, CESD looks to teach “all children are equal, all people are equal.”

“This is just saying, ‘Hey, look, we’re not using race to divide our children and our families,” she said. “I want us to always be working in the best interest of children, parents, staff and teachers. I like the fact we’re on the cutting edge and a little ahead of this.”

The school board backed Kais, voting unanimously to pass the resolution.

Board Member Richard Ulery said CRT was being incorporated into many districts across the country and, “I don’t want CRT introduced into the curriculum.”

Next steps

Superintendent Roxana Rico said the school follows standards set by Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, and they do not include CRT.

“There are no standards that implicitly require teachers to teach CRT,” she said.

During the meeting, Rico reassured the board that CESD does not have CRT materials in the curriculum. She said their greatest focus is getting students caught up after COVID-19.

“Our focus will continue to be in researching on how to close the achievement gap in reading and math,” she said.

Rico said that just because CRT has been prohibited does not mean history won’t be taught or important questions children have about the world will be left out or ignored.

“Teachers and educators always have had to be cautious with political views on any curriculum or controversial issues,” she said. “Kids ask questions and we have to be able to answer them and approach it in a non-biased way but it doesn’t mean we don’t talk about real issues kids face or give historical facts. We are not trying to divide, we want to have unity.”

CRT nationwide

CRT began developing as an academic concept in the mid-1970s. Last year, it became a national and controversial topic, especially as it relates to education.

Arkansas, Florida, Iowa and Tennessee, among others, have passed bans related to teaching CRT in public schools. Some states have mandated that schools teaching CRT could lose funding.

A main theme of CRT is that racism is systemic — not just perpetrated by individuals — and embedded into decision-making within the United States.

Many of those opposed to CRT see it as divisive, political and as an inherently racist theory. Those against prohibiting CRT in schools see it threatening robust conversations about racism.

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9728