The Tennessee Department of Education declined recently to investigate a right-wing mothers group’s complaint that the curriculum in their school district violates a new state law aimed at banning critical race theory (CRT) in classrooms, the Tennessean reports.
Robin Steenman, chair of the Moms for Liberty Williamson County chapter, filed the 11-page complaint in June. It alleges that the Wit and Wisdom literacy curriculum used by Williamson County Schools has “a heavily biased agenda” on how it teaches about racism in America and the civil rights movement.
The group has a problem with books adapted for young learners on subjects like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington and the autobiography of Ruby Bridges, who faced a white mob that attempted to bar the then-6-year-old from integrating an all-white New Orleans elementary school in 1960.
In a Nov. 23 letter, the department responded, "Please note that in declining to investigate these claims, the department has not made a determination regarding the merits of these allegations. We encourage you to work with the Williamson County School District to resolve the issues and concerns related to your complaint and ensure compliance with state law."
CRT is an academic framework to analyze systemic racism that is not typically taught at the elementary level. Developed in the 1970s and 80s by the former Harvard Law professor Derrick Bell, CRT examines how racism is embedded in institutions to protect white dominance, according to The New York Times. It challenges the idea that racism exists only at the individual level. Rather, racism is systemic, across the nation’s education, criminal justice and other systems.
Republicans across the nation are using fear of CRT as a political weapon to stir their voting base, according to the Associated Press.
Tennessee’s GOP lawmakers introduced a ban on schools from instructing students that one race is responsible for the past actions against another, race privilege, or that the United States is fundamentally racist, USA Today reported. Similar efforts were made in other states, including Texas and Idaho.
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None of Steenman’s three children attend public school, Reuters reported. Nevertheless, Steenman said she’s concerned that teachers are presenting lessons to elementary-age kids that white people are oppressors and people of color are victims.
The complaint cites "photographs of white firemen blasting Black children to the point of 'bruising their bodies and ripping off their clothes'" and photos of “white and colored drinking fountains.”
"The classroom books and teacher manuals reveal both explicit and implicit Anti-American, Anti-White, and Anti-Mexican teaching," the complaint said. "Additionally, it implies to second grade children that people of color continue to be oppressed by an oppressive 'angry, vicious, scary, mean, loud, violent, [rude], and [hateful]' white population and teaches that the racial injustice of the 1960s exists today."
The Williamson County school board is expected to discuss the results of its own curriculum review in December, according to the Tennessean.
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