Critical race theory controversy |

Critical race theory controversy

Emily Pofahl
Updated: July 14, 2021 07:31 PM
Created: July 14, 2021 06:53 PM

(ABC 6 News) - The recent Rochester Public Schools board meeting turned into a heated discussion about critical race theory.

It was the new superintendent's first meeting, and dozens of people showed up to speak out against teaching the theory in classrooms. The public forum was full of cheering, shouting and anti-black lives matter signs. 

RELATED: Heated discussion around critical race theory at RPS board meeting

But critical race theory wasn't even on the meeting's agenda. School leaders claim it isn't even an option for the district. The new superintendent told ABC 6 News that Rochester Public Schools is committed to equity, but was never planning on integrating critical race theory. 

So then what has some people so upset? 

"It's very important how these ideas and these concepts are being framed because teachers and school leaders are molding students' minds and we need to make sure that students aren't limited to a narrow and divisive worldview," Catrin Wigfall, an American Experiment education policy speaker, said.

Concerned parents and residents have been debating brining critical race theory into schools in the past couple months. But what is this theory? 

The American Bar Association says that in the simplest terms critical race theory is the practice of questioning the role of race and racism in society. It started in the legal field and then spread to high-level academics. Some democrats in the federal government want a simpler form of this theory to be taught in schools. Republicans widely discourage this idea. Community leaders against critical race theory told ABC 6 that it does not encourage unity. 

"We do have racist people in this country. But the country is no longer systemically racist," Kendall Qualls, the founder of TakeCharge, said.  

People also believe that even though the theory is not explicitly taught in classrooms right now, it still influences what teachers are saying. 

"A lot of these critical race theory inspired efforts aren't labeled critical race theory. And so it's important for parents to know what to look for and how this could creep up into the classroom in different ways," Wigfall said. 

In our area, however, there is no specific evidence that critical race theory has directly influenced classroom curriculum. Officials say there is no plan to change that, but they are dedicated to equity. 

"Creating those inclusive, challenging environments for all kids...And you cannot do that in the united states today if you're not willing to listen and learn along about issues of race culture and ethnicity," Superintendent Kent Pekel said.  

ABC 6 News confirmed with Rochester, Austin, Byron, Albert Lea, and Mason City Public Schools that there are no current plans to involve critical race theory in K-12 curriculum. But some residents told us that speaking out against critical race theory is a kind of preventive measure so that it doesn't happen in the future. 

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