Controversy Over Critical Race Theory

The arguments about Critical Race Theory (CRT) and transgender youth are setting the stage for a school year that will likely be profoundly unsafe for students. As CRT arguments heated up this spring, we saw school staff being targeted with death threats, school buildings on lockdown, school board members harassed in parking lots. Now we are seeing fights about Critical Race Theory and denying that systemic racism exists in a community where students set up a mock “Slave Trade” on Instagram and the district responded by seeking to implement a statement against racism.

If this continues, we appear to be facing a school year of increased bullying and harassment, youth suicide, and school violence, including school shootings. It is time to stop this hurtful campaign now!

Let’s be clear about several things. The arguments over CRT have been set up by Republican advocates for the purpose of creating controversy they believe will lead to success in the 2022 elections. The CRT protest groups also appear to be coordinated by those seeking to undermining public schools.

Local opponents of CRT are absolutely sure it is bad. Just please do not ask them to explain what CRT is and why it is bad. And, oh by the way, CRT is an advanced academic study that is not taught in K-12 schools.

There are, however, efforts in most educational systems across this country to better address the systemic inequities within the school systems that are disadvantaging many minority students, including disadvantaged white students. We should all be applauding these efforts. In addition, there are efforts to more accurately teach history. Accurate history is filled with unpleasant realities that may, from time to time, make people feel upset or uncomfortable. 

Efforts are underway in far too many states to place a muzzle on teachers. There are efforts to return to US history as taught in the past.The term “whitewashed” certainly applies here. . 

What are my concerns related to student well-being and safety in the next school year?

Many students of color, students experiencing disabilities or who are neurodiverse, students with a minority sexual orientation or identity, students who are a minority religion, and those who are overweight or other unique aspect related to their identity were frequently treated badly in school. Sometimes school staff treat students in a hurtful manner related to their identity. Most often, nothing effective is done by the school to stop this. Being consistently denigrated or excluded in school can result in damage to students’s emotional well-being which can have a long lasting harmful emotional and and physical impact. 

The term “Spirit Murdering” has been applied to these hurtful actions, so far, only in the context of race. Having worked in the field of bullying and harassment prevention for over a decade, it is my position that Spirit Murdering is a term that rightfully applies to all of the situations where students are routinely denigrated and excluded simply because of their identity.

My concerns (and hopes) for what will happen next year include the following: 

  • The controversies over race and gender identity are likely to result in an increase in bullying and harassment of minority students by other students. These minority students are likely to be more proactive in insisting that their rights be respected. This could lead to greater conflict. On a positive hope, it may be that many students do not appreciate the efforts by some to work against positive efforts to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our students could possibly become leaders in fighting back against these protests.  
  • It is important to recognize what happened to students who had frequently experienced bullying last year during remote instruction. The bullying essentially stopped. These students were able to learn in an environment where their spirit was not daily under attack. When these students are forced to return to school next year, their emotional distress is likely to increase. The persistent murdering of their spirit will return, and will likely be increased. A positive hope is that schools will be more focused on stopping such bullying and harassment. 
  • Bullied students are significantly more likely than other students to engage in suicide behavior. Youth suicide behavior increases when students are present in school. Bullied students are also more likely to bring weapons to school to protect themselves. Boys, especially, are often told that the only way to stop bullying is through a physical response back. Retaliation is often supported in our society. A positive hope is that given the potential of increased concerns such as these that schools will be more focused on stopping such bullying and harassment. 

Every effort must be made to help local parents understand the ramifications that these anti-CRT protests could have on students in their local schools, including their children. Somehow, we have to shift these conversations away from arguments over CRT and gender identity to a collaborative focus on ensuring what is best for all students in our schools. 

Please visit my page on Professional Development videos for 3 videos that thoroughly address how to Engage Students to Embrace Civility.

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