The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board voted 4-3 on Tuesday to ban critical race theory (CRT) from classrooms in the district, becoming one of the first districts in California to go against the trend of CRT being added to curriculums statewide.
Many citizens of Paso Robles, a city of around 32,000 people in San Luis Obispo County, have been critical of CRT studies since more Californian school districts adopted it as part of the curriculum in recent years.
A movement soon grew in the city, with Paso Robles School Board President Chris Arend leading the charge against CRT Tuesday night.
“I find critical race theory to be just an absolutely disgustingly racist ideology that has been developed with the intention of really driving a wedge between various groups in America, various ethnic groups, and to use that to absolutely ruin our nation,” said Arend in a statement on Wednesday. “Very simple.”
One California school district blocked critical race theory in its classrooms this week – banning what the board defined as a “fatally flawed” ideology “based on false assumptions about the United States of America and its population.”
Throughout the meeting, the Board heard from both sides of the public. Supporters against CRT tended to agree with Arend, noting that CRT would only lead to victim blaming, more racial divide, and that CRT itself was racist.
“We’re not going to have our kids pointing the finger of the blame and calling one group oppressors and calling another group victims,” said Michael Rivera during the board meeting. “You’ve got to draw the line and say, ‘Not one step further, we will not turn our kids against each other.’”
Others, including parents, agreed.
“I don’t believe any of us would be foolish enough to state that under no uncertain terms here that critical race theory is not being taught in our classrooms in one form or another,” added Judy Moore. “Banning CRT from Paso Robles classrooms sends a clear message that we will not stand for racist or extreme ideology.”
Although Arend estimated that around 75% of Paso Robles residents were against CRT, many in favor of it also spoke on Tuesday. While some charged the school district with being on the wrong side of history, some speakers also spoke up against the District spending time on CRT rather than deciding on pressing matters such as a school closure and bussing issues. .
“Critical race theory will be taught in schools eventually,” said Shannon Gonzales. “I’m just saying it will! You’re on the wrong side of history, so think about that. This is wasting time and resources that you should be spending on issues that are actually happening now. We need to be focused on transportation; you’re considering closing a school. Why are we wasting time?”
However, Arend’s resolution, which defines CRT as “an ideology based on false assumptions about the United States of America and its population,” that is also “a divisive ideology that assigns moral fault to individuals solely on the basis of an individual’s race, assigns generational guilt and racial guilt for conduct and policies that are long in the past, and violates the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law” narrowly passed 4-3.
Paso Robles will not have complete CRT ban, other districts likely to enact their own bans soon
While the resolution is not an a complete, outright ban on CRT, specific elements would be banned, such as teaching that only white people can be racist or focusing on certain races.
“There’s a museum called The Museum of Tolerance outside LA,” explained Stan Worth, another Paso Robles parent, to the Globe on Wednesday. “When you enter there are two doors, pretty much saying those who hold racist beliefs go through one door while those who don’t go through another. Those who say they aren’t enter a clear plastic room that doesn’t allow you to go anywhere, pretty much making you realize everyone harbors these beliefs and that blaming certain groups solely for those misdeeds is just not true. That’s what the resolution did. You still teach about equality and America’s dark past on everything from slavery to the treatment of Native Americans to what we face today. But it’s de-politicized and more balanced and nuanced.”
Arend himself noted what the changes mean to the city’s schools.
“It’s not really even an academic theory,” continued Arend. “It’s just a damn ideology, and it is the most divisive ideology we have now in the United States.
“Nobody anywhere in the country wants to have a course called ‘critical race theory for elementary school. This stuff will seep into the curriculum. It will seep in when the teachers start teaching that this country has always been racist, that racism is the way things get done.
“We teach the children about communism without teaching them communism. We teach them about fascism, without teaching them fascism. We can do the same with CRT, and actually we should do that so that the kids are vaccinated against the prevalence of this contagion in academia. We have had incidents where teachings of CRT have found their way into our classrooms. We had teachers displaying Black Lives Matters banners behind them in their remote training.”
And Paso Robles actions on Tuesday may lead to more statewide changes.
“Paso Robles just proved that a city can limit or stop CRT,” explained Lila Gore, an academic curriculum advisor, to the Globe on Wednesday. “A lot of districts see CRT as an overreaction to the George Floyd protests last year, but have been hesitant to stop them. Paso Robles just showed them it can be done. A lot of districts were waiting for an example to point to, especially many in Southern California. Now they have one. The tide may be going against CRT now.”
Other school districts are likely to announce their own CRT bans and limitations in the near future.