Weld County Re-8 school board turns down attempt to ban critical race theory curriculum

Infighting sparks fly about critical race theory debate

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The Weld County Re-8 board of education voted down an attempt to ban critical race theory curriculum in the district.

Cody LeBlanc and Jaime Sierra, the co-presenters of the resolution, were the only ones to vote in support during a Dec. 9 business meeting.

Discussion

Comments took an hour and 20 minutes.  They started with Re-8 board President Susan K. Browne, who read several letters into the record. Hometowns of some authors were not released. Others were, such as one from Fort Collins who had extended family in the district. 

LeBlanc came in for criticism more than once. One speaker said he and fellow co-author Jaime Sierra had no experience in educational instruction or curriculum issues.

Browne read a letter from Stella Adame, in which she said LeBlanc posted a Facebook message in support of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager recently acquitted of murder charges in Wisconsin. The post came at the same time as two recent school shootings in Aurora.

"Now, he's proposing this resolution against teaching CRT. Enough said," she said. "It's evident that Cody LeBlanc should not be sitting on the Re-8 board. I'm not sure he's reflective of the diversity of a district like Fort Lupton's."

Others were more focused on CRT and the resolution.

"It's not right for the school district to teach this absurdity to our children," said comments from Ann Bradbury of Larimer County.

Heather Frank, who has family members enrolled at Homyak PK-6 School, said CRT judges people based on their skin color.

"History brings to light slavery and Jim Crow. CRT teaches that the founding principles are evil," she said.

"Let's get back to learning things that will make a difference in the world," said Cindy Green, whose hometown wasn't available.

Public comment followed. One teacher decried the resolution as unnecessary and a case of interference with critical thinking in schools.

"The schools' job should be to teach history, not to indoctrinate," said parent Isaac Rodriguez. "The last thing people of color need is another example of how white people can succeed."

Fort Lupton Education Association member Bekah Richards and a second-grade teacher at Butler Elementary School, called the resolution "a solution in search of a problem."

"Students should get an education that equips them to work toward a better future," she told the board. "Don't waste critical time and resources on this."

Twombly Elementary School art teacher Mitchell Wilcox said there are existing anti-racism policies in the district.

"This (resolution) doesn't solve any future problems," he said. "It may create some in the future."

Pregame discussion

The board's workshop discussion on CRT was quite lively. Weld Re-8 school board member Michelle Bettger lashed out at LeBlanc Sierra.

It's not a part of the curriculum, either locally or at the state level.  Educationweek.org defined critical race theory as "race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies."

One of the key campaign topics in the recent Virginia governor's race was to keep CRT out of that state's public schools.

LeBlanc said there was sufficient interest in the community to warrant a discussion.

"People in the community are asking me about this," Leblanc told the board. "That's why I decided to bring it forward."

Bettger, who has been on the board four years, and Browne, who has been on the board six years, said this matter had not come up until now.

"I'm frustrated with you carrying this forward and saying the community is asking you to do something without at least checking with the other members before creating chaos in our community," Bettger said. "We are receiving emails from people who are not even in our community."

Bettger wasn't finished.

"You are creating chaos when we have bigger fish to fry in our schools and in our community," she said. "This isn't one of them. I'd appreciate it if the two of you would bring up other things. I'm extremely frustrated."

After the audience's applause died down, LeBlanc said he appreciated Bettger's thoughts and said the rest of the board could support it or not as the members chose.

"People do care," he said. "It's obvious by the number of people who came out tonight. I'm not sad I brought it forward. I want to fight for the education of the students in our district. That's what all of us want. We don't want to be indoctrinated."

"Michelle is correct. I've been on the board six years, and this is the first time anybody has used that," Browne said.

In conclusion

One by one, board members thanked the speakers for their participation.

"This resolution is to spark a conversation," LeBlanc said. "The point of the education system is to promote critical thinking. The fact that we had this conversation speaks volumes about our community.

"To those who agree, thanks for coming. To those who disagree, thanks for coming. To those who don't care,, thanks for coming," he concluded.

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