Interior of classroom in elementary school

Interior of classroom in elementary school. Row of empty desks are in illuminated room.

Critical Race Theory made the leap from academic jargon to political talking point in 2020. It even picked up its own acronym, CRT. And most recently, it has started to get the scrutiny, and push-back, it deserves. That’s especially so in public schools in Colorado as across the country.

CRT is the dubious notion that people belong either to an oppressed minority or a racist majority. The 1619 Project, the best-known exponent of CRT, teaches that America’s institutions are racist and that the Founding itself was rooted in racism.

In Virginia, parents are suing their school board over new CRT-inspired equity policies that crack down on so-called “bias incidents” reported anonymously by student-informers.

Idaho, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Texas have all introduced or passed bills opposing CRT in schools. In May, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita sent the Biden adminstration’s Department of Education a letter signed by 20 state attorneys general criticizing CRT.

And in Colorado, Douglas County parents have risen up against CRT in their children’s schools.

The Douglas County School District pays the Anti-Defamation League for the use of its “No Place for Hate” curriculum. No Place for Hate defines racism as “the marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people” and warns students that “microaggressions" and “seeking out like-minded people” could lead to genocide.

DCSD also recently created a new “equity policy.” To implement it, the district paid $37,000 for training from the Gemini Group, consultants whose “focus is on creating Equity in all outcomes.” The Gemini Group offers “implicit bias training” and “equity training.”

When DCSD held its first in-person board meeting since the pandemic, No Place For Hate, the district’s new equity policy, and the Gemini Group were fresh on parents’ minds. Public comment went on for two hours as parents shellacked the board for its flirtation with Critical Race Theory.

Superintendent Corey Wise had stated that DCSD wouldn’t change its curriculum to include CRT. Douglas County parent Nate Ormond responded by wondering “if this is a tacit admission the curriculum already does,” then listed examples of CRT in DougCo schools, calling it “political activism at its worst.”

Parent Deborah Flora told the board, “We all know the Dr. King quote that has been shared — color of our skin versus the content of our character. He had a dream. This is a nightmare. It is a nightmare for our children, and it needs to end now.”

After the public comments, board member David Ray addressed the crowd saying it was clear that the district “has some work to do.”

Apparently that work started quickly. An email shared with The Gazette, from the principal of Highlands Ranch High School to Gemini just two hours after the board meeting, says they “were directed by Superintendent Corey Wise to cancel the Equity Leadership Summit.”

In the email, the principal made clear his condescension toward the parents who spoke, saying, “as you stated in your CDE training to multiple school districts last year 'some people and school districts just aren't ready for this work', sadly that appears to be true for Douglas County School District at this time.”

The Gemini Group released a statement the next day in which it accused DCSD of “allowing a handful of vocal white parents out of the thousands of parents in your district to dictate how to help educators become aware of, and address, detrimental impacts on children of color in this country.” The Group went so far as to call the board’s decision to cancel “naïve at best, or a conscious, willful attempt to maintain the status quo of ignorance, bias, and inequitable outcomes at worst.”

At least other districts now know what to expect should they cancel their equity-training contracts.

This marks the second time in 2021 that Douglas County parents have shown the power of citizen activism. Earlier this year, the school board responded to a recall effort launched by Nate Ormond by re-opening their schools after months of COVID-rationalized closures. Now the same parents are exorcising Critical Race Theory from their children's classrooms.

“Equity” is all the rage these days. We’d rather hear Colorado school districts refer to “excellence” instead. We hope that after its recent wake-up call, the Douglas County School District and others across the state will consider a renewed emphasis on academic rigor. It’s time to give the grievance politics a rest.