A petition on change.org was posted in the Reopen Carroll County Public Schools Facebook group this week. It was titled “Say ‘No’ to Critical Race Theory in Carroll County Public Schools.”
The petition, with more than 200 signatures by Friday afternoon, stated in its description that critical race theory, or CRT, “fights racism with racism” and denies all people are created equally. An update on the digital petition called for parents to attend the Carroll County Board of Education meeting June 9 to not only speak out against CRT, but also against the “alleged events at Francis Scott Key High School.”
Several speakers at Wednesday’s school board meeting brought up critical race theory and urged the board to prevent the topic from entering the classrooms.
“Carroll County does not include, and has no plans to include, critical race theory in our curriculum,” Angie McCauslin, director of curriculum and instruction, said in an email.
The publication EducationWeek defined CRT as a 40-year-old academic concept with the core idea that “racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”
The American Bar Association notes that critical race theory “recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past” but acknowledges that slavery, segregation “and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color” still has affects on the nation today.
The same parents who dismissed critical race theory, also, during the citizen participation portion of the meeting, criticized the school system’s response to allegations that Francis Scott Key High School boys lacrosse players directed racial slurs at a Manchester Valley player during a May game.
It led to an investigation, however, the results will not be revealed.
“We do not release the results of student investigations due to the fact that student information is private,” Carey Gaddis, the school system’s communications director, said via email May 24.
Several parents who spoke Wednesday said the student or students who were accused are innocent until proven guilty, and accused the school system administration or members of the community of not holding to that principle.
Rebecca Rolfes was one who spoke. She first said critical race theory is a tool used to intimidate and divide, and requested the board create a resolution to reject it. She then said an email from Superintendent Steve Lockard addressing the lacrosse game allegations was generic and should have noted the system would have a “full and fair process for our boys, for our students.”
A May 17 letter sent to the school community and signed by Lockard and others addressed the lacrosse game. It stated the system recognizes the need to do more to foster an inclusive environment. It also stated one of the first things to be done is for the coaches and athletic directors to facilitate “important conversations about sportsmanship, inclusivity, climate and leadership” with the sports teams.
The letter also stated the efforts are underway and will continue during next year’s athletic season.
“Are you assuming my daughter is racist because of her skin color?” a woman, who said she’s a parent of a high school student-athlete, said after acknowledging the letter.
Bryan Thompson, a parent of four CCPS students, made comments similar to Rolfes’. He criticized the handling of the lacrosse game allegations and referred to comments like “we have more work to do as a community” as “reckless language.” He said the incident was used to paint a broad brush of the CCPS students, he questioned how hate was on the rise when students spent most of their time learning from home this school year and said the system owed them an apology. He also added that CRT “has absolutely no place in our school system” and to “not dare” use the lacrosse incident as a reason to introduce it.
Not all speakers talking about CRT were there to criticize it.
“I have concerns that the Board of Education is trying to lift a mask mandate and [is] not dealing with the systematic racism in this county and in this school system as a result,” Francine Hahn, who identified as a person of color, said.
She noted comments made by board member Patricia Dorsey and Devanshi Mistry, the student representative, during the May board meeting. They both spoke about experiences of students of color with racism at Carroll County Public Schools and how racism should not be dismissed.
Hahn said nobody is calling an individual racist but dealing with systematic racism needs to be a systemwide effort. She also noted that CRT is not about separating people by race and gender, but looking at the history of racism and its effects today.
“Racism is alive and well in Carroll County,” Rodney Morris, the president of Carroll County’s NAACP chapter, said during the board meeting. “And why we’re denying that is the first problem.”
He said just the name “critical race theory” is causing others to fear something they don’t understand. And educators should want others to listen and learn the facts. “If there’s some truth in that theory, teach children how to think and get all opinions,” he said.
As for the lacrosse incident, Morris said he has a family member who attends FSK who said he would tend to believe that a racial slur was used “because it occurs often.”
Said Morris: “We have to start listening to the minority students in this county.”
During the May 12 meeting, Mistry called on the board and superintendent to make an action plan to combat racism and Dorsey agreed.
Lockard, at the time, said to Mistry, “I’m appreciative of the work that many have done in this system to move us forward to address some of the issues in this system but clearly it’s time to double down on a plan of action as you suggested. And we intend to do just that.”
Mistry addressed the action plan again Wednesday and asked Lockard if they any progress had been made. Lockard said that he has said in the past a plan would not be ready by June and that it’s important to recognize the work that’s been done already.
He said there is a work session in two weeks, June 21, and called it a “great place to look at some of the actions in place” that can be worked on and refined, as well as a place to discuss what more they can be doing.
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“My urging for an action plan to be in place is because … we still have many issues that are occurring and which hasn’t exactly been solved or hasn’t changed,” Mistry said. “And I truly believe that something concrete like an action plan … would help the implementation of improving the culture in our schools.”