A public school in Indiana has get entangled in controversy after a school counselor allegedly sent a letter to parents giving them the option to withdraw their children from Black History Month classes.
Why is this important: The Indiana case comes as some states impose new restrictions on diversity education under the guise of banning the teaching of critical race theory.
How did it happen: In the letter posted on Twitter, Sprunica Elementary School counselor Benjamin White wrote that he would be teaching classes related to “fairness, caring and understanding differences” over the next two weeks.
- “Studies show that students who have a better understanding of diversity in the classroom and in the outside world will demonstrate better learning outcomes such as better grades, better peer relationships, and greater career success later on. “
- “If you would like your child not to receive these lessons, sign the form below and ask your child to return it to school,” the letter reads at the bottom.
- 97% of the school’s 237 students are white, according to state Department of Education data.
The last: Emily Tracy, Superintendent of Brown County Schools acknowledged receipt of the letter in a message to students, families and staff on Wednesday.
- The district is gathering more information about what happened, Tracy said, adding that “we support teaching about the facts of our history, including historical injustices.”
- In an email to IndyStar, Tracy said district policy does not allow an opt-out for required curriculum, including social studies and history. “Any decisions related to parental consent and program determinations are made in accordance with the law,” she wrote.
- White and Tracy did not immediately return requests for comment.
To note: The Indiana House has already passed a bill to restrict what teachers are allowed to say about race, politics and history in the classroom, IndyStar reports. The legislation is now with the State Senate.
The big picture: Since last year, 14 states have imposed such restrictions through laws, executive actions or committee votes, according to an analysis by Education Week.
- Additionally, 35 states have introduced legislation or taken other action to restrict the teaching of critical race theory. — a concept that focuses on the legacy of systemic racism – or limits how teachers can discuss racism and sexism.
What they say : “It’s so anti-intellectual. It’s so closed off. It’s almost an effort to keep people away from the past,” Yale historian David Blight told Axios after hearing about the controversy over the opt-out in Indiana.
- “I mean, do we give parents the option to opt out of learning biology? Do we give them an option on learning math? How about an option on learning to read and write?”
- History has always been a controversial subject because it involves competing accounts of the past, said Blight, the author of the Pulitzer-winning biography “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.”