Clarion-Limestone Board Gives Final Approval on Ban of Critical Race Theory

CLARION TWP., Pa. (EYT) – Clarion-Limestone School District approved the second and final reading of revisions to their Philosophy of Education/Mission Statement on Wednesday evening that include the banning of Critical Race Theory.

(Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography)

The board approved the updated Philosophy of Education/Mission Statement, which will have the following added:

In order to offer our students a well-rounded education that teaches them how to learn by and think critically for themselves, the board is committed to providing a system of education that promotes engaged and informed students who develop the skills necessary to become lifelong learners. All students are entitled to learn in a safe and orderly environment where they are taught how to learn and think critically about diverse subjects not what to think about particular issues.

The teaching concepts which impute fault, blame, a tendency to oppress others, or the need to feel guilt or anguish for persons solely because of their skin color, race, sex, or religion are prohibited in the district as such concepts violate the principles of individual rights, equal opportunity, and individual merit underpinning our constitutional republic and therefore have no place in training for administrators, teachers, or other employees of the district. The district will not support the use of public resources in any programs, curriculum, or supplemental materials in any format that indoctrinate students in a single social or political ideology and/or theory or promote one race, religion, ideology, or sex above others.

This policy should not be construed as prohibiting the impartial study and discussion of political or other controversial issues in classroom settings, including the dissemination of factual information about historical or current events where such teaching or information reasonably relates to the course curriculum. All sides of the political issue, supported by primary or balanced secondary sources, shall be presented to permit students to be well-informed and able to make their own decisions regarding political and/or other controversial issues.

Further, this policy shall ensure that Social Justice and unsubstantiated theories of any kind, including but not limited to Holocaust Denial Theory, 9/11 Theory, The 1610 Project, and Critical Race Theory, are not advocated or presented to students as part of any curriculum unless approved in advance by the board. It is the responsibility of the board, the district’s administrators, and its professional staff to ensure that curricular standards are taught using well-documented factual resources from different viewpoints and sources.

Discussion of the topic began before the agenda item was even raised, during the public comments period.

Two conflicting points of view were given, with one community member voicing support for the ban, saying critical race theory would “promote division,” and another community member asking board members to carefully consider the possible ramifications of the policy when it comes to the teaching of history as well as programs in the district that promote social justice.

Community member and school board candidate Hannah Allison pointed out that several programs in the district, namely the anti-bullying program and the Friendship Bag program, fall under the umbrella of “Social Justice” which is included in the ban.

“I’m also curious whether there is a plan in place for how to teach curriculum, whether it will even be permitted, as far as Martin Luther King Junior, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and other factual historical figures who did exist who did encourage people to think critically about the fact that racial differences do impact daily lives and who challenged the social and government systems of their time that were unfairly biased against people of color,” Allison said.

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“I guess I’m confused because those figures, those topics, even donating to FoodStock or having a speaker come in and talk about their humanitarian work, all fall under the umbrella of social justice and critical race theory.”

When the topic did come up as an agenda item, there was some confusion as there was a motion to approve, made by board member Dave Eggleton, with a motion to table the issue, made by Joe Billotte, made at nearly the same time, with Eggleton’s motion just barely beating Billotte’s, and a second on the motion to approve quickly following.

After a short discussion of Robert’s Rules of Order, board president Nathaniel Parker decided the motion spoken first, by Eggleton, would be considered first, then if it did not pass, the motion to table the issue would be considered.

Parker then gave each of the board members at the table a chance to speak their minds on the issue, working from one side of the table to the other.

Board member Larry Jamison noted that he didn’t want to get into a political debate, since the issue has been politically charged, but also agreed with Allison that the district was walking a “fine line” when it comes to the teaching of factual history.

Billotte indicated that he was asking for the issue to be tabled for further review, considering the highly charged nature of the discussion surrounding the topic.

One of the student representatives on the board then asked for clarification about why “social justice” was listed as something not to be advocated or presented.

Parker addressed the question by noting that the wording of the Philosophy of Education/Mission Statement is not a blanket ban on these topics, but only keeps these topics from being taught without board approval.

“The board approves curriculum. I don’t think there’s any intent to change or remove existing curriculum,” Parker said.

“I believe we’ve heard from several different teachers that we’re not employing this right now, any of these things. We’re not proposing a change. We’re trying to be proactive, to get out in front of it, so if a teacher decided they wanted to go into one of these areas, they need to make sure they come before the board, and then the board can give its approval.”

Board member Kathy Henry spoke in support of tabling the issue, noting that she would like the board to have more time to discuss and work on the changes before giving them final approval.

Gary Sproul, who worked on the policy revision, stood firmly in favor of it, citing several examples of incidents in the news involving the teaching of critical race theory.

“Critical race theory is creating the indoctrination of environment that will constrain children’s creative sense of self, and consequently limit their analytic productivity as adults,” Sproul said.

“We are not having this junk taught to our children.”

Sproul went on to mention issues with Gender Theory, as well.

“We talk about science. When you are born a male, you are a male. When you are born a female, you’re a female. You can get a sex change, but that does not change your DNA.”

While the issue of adding Gender Theory to the list of prohibited theories was also mentioned at the previous meeting, it was not addressed further during this week’s meetings and no motion to amend the list was made.

Board member Bryan Huwar chose not to give any opinion when he was passed the microphone, simply stating he was ready to vote on the issue.

Eggleton echoed some of the same sentiment but stated he was ready to vote in favor of the issue, as it had already been discussed in several prior meetings.

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Board member Rebecca Allison noted that issues of history related to race aren’t something that Clarion-Limestone has ever shied away from, and this change in philosophy will not change that.

“What I’m saying is we’ve got a very divisive theory that we are saying we’re not going to just blatantly allow our teachers to come into classrooms and promote multiple theories,” Allison said.

“Right now I do not support implementing a policy that would say yes, we are going to teach our children critical race theory because it’s too divisive, there’s no good definition of it, and if someone could come to us and say ‘this is an aspect of critical race theory that I would like to teach in my classroom,’ I think every board member up here would be willing to hear what that piece of information is and then we could vote whether or not to approve it.”

Parker was the next to speak, noting that the policy “goes beyond any one hot button issue, and talks about teaching children not what to learn but how to learn,” which he said was an important core to focus on.

“My understanding is critical race theory goes over a line and tells people what to think about themselves. It doesn’t teach them just critical thinking skills in general, it delves way too far into the politics.”

He also noted another thing to keep in mind, as mentioned previously in the meeting, the policy is not a “blanket preclusion” on anything, but rather says a teacher would have to come to the board if they want to go into one of these hot button issues.

Superintendent Amy Glasl also spoke on the issue as the leader for curriculum to clarify some issues regarding the update, particularly in terms of what “part of the curriculum” means.

“That means a teacher taking a nine-weeks, and teaching the critical race theory. That is curriculum. That needs to be approved by the school board.”

She noted that while programs like the Friendship Bags “show” social justice, as do some other programs at the school, those are permissible.

“That is not what this policy is. That is an act of showing social justice, showing compassion, showing empathy. I want to distinguish that so you understand, curriculum is a set curriculum that is taught longer than a week, and that is what we’re talking about. And, it doesn’t say they can’t, as a teacher do that, but that they have to get it approved.”

“All those wonderful things that we do at Clarion-Limestone will continue. If a student asks in class, ‘can you explain critical race theory to me?’ if that teacher has the knowledge to share that independently and say what Mrs. Allison said, that is fine. It is the curriculum, the longevity of the theory that is being taught in the classroom (in the policy).”

Following the discussion, the motion was passed in a 6-2 vote (one board member, Corry Bish, was not in attendance) with Joe Billotte and Kathy Henry voting against the motion.


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