Board fails to approve CRT statement

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Lansing school board members were unable to come to an agreement last week about the release of statement concerning critical race theory.

But Superintendent Dan Wessel said may come up again when board members meet next month.

Wessel had prepared a statement in which he called critical race theory a theoretical approach to material that is generally discussed at the college level. He said critical race theory is not part of district or state education standards.

A school board motion to release the statement failed Aug. 9 with a 3-3 vote. Board members John Dalbey, Pete Robinson and Cheryl Runnebaum voted against the measure. Board Vice President Michelle McQuillan was absent.

The Associated Press reports that critical race theory, which is often referred to as CRT, "centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society."

Wessel's statement was prepared after Robinson suggested last month that the school board have a discussion about critical race theory.

Wessel said many things that happen in the district that people call CRT end up addressing equity and inclusion.

He said the community and the entire world "continue to have racial issues."

Robinson said he appreciated the statement prepared by the superintendent. But Robinson said he thought the statement was a little vague.

Robinson said he would like the statement to have specifics about goals for making sure CRT does not find its way into the district.

Amy Cawvey, who is a candidate for the Lansing school board, addressed board members during last week's meeting. Cawvey has made her opposition to critical race theory a focus of her campaign.

During her remarks to the school board, Cawvey mentioned a book titled "This Book is Anti-Racist" that has been used at Lansing Middle School. She said the book argues a white heterosexual man is part of a dominant culture that create laws, policies and institutions in order to maintain power.

"What I just read to you is CRT," she said.

She said the school board approved the purchase of 35 copies of the book in April.

Dalbey later apologized for previously "rubber-stamping" the book mentioned by Hawvey. He said the book does not represent the community.

Dalbey acknowledged he had only read the book's cover and introduction.

"Just the opening itself is offensive to me," he said.

Wessel said the book has been used by a social justice club at the middle school.

The superintendent said the district has about 225 employees and entrusts them to teach children in the community each day.

"They do not, in no way shape or form, teach from a script," Wessel said. "That's not why we hire professional educators."

He noted the district has a policy that establishes a procedure for challenging materials used by the district.

Under the policy, a person who has a complaint about textbooks or other instructional meetings is asked to first meet with a school principal. If the matter is not resolved, the person can fill out a form requesting of review of the material.

Once this form is completed, the superintendent meets with the person. If the issue is still unresolved, the person can request the school board review the complaint.

If board members agree to take up the complaint, they appoint a review committee to look into the matter. The committee provides a recommendation to the board.

If the person making the complaint is not satisfied with the recommendation, he or she can appeal to the board to have a hearing on the matter.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR