Board approves CRT statement

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

After failing to pass it last month, members of the Lansing Board of Education voted this past week to approve a statement regarding critical race theory.

The statement, which was prepared by Superintendent Dan Wessel, says the Lansing public school system teaches curriculum that meets state and district standards for all subjects, and critical race theory is not part of these standards.

"As a district, we remain steadfast in our commitment to equity, inclusion, and continuous improvement so that all students feel valued and are prepared for their future," Wessel said in the statement.

According to the statement, the superintendent's office has received several calls and questions regarding the district's stance on critical race theory.

The Associated Press reports that critical race theory "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."

Some candidates for the Lansing Board of Education have expressed opposition to critical race theory in their campaigns.

Board member Cheryl Runnebaum said critical race theory is something discussed at law schools but is offered in other university settings."

"It's another theory along side many other theories as well that you can take classes on," she said. "What you choose to believe and practice is up to you."

During a school board meeting last month, school board candidate Amy Cawvey was critical of a book used at the middle school. She said the book, titled "This Book is Anti-Racist," makes arguments that she characterized as critical race theory.

Lansing Middle School Principal Brooks Jenkins spoke to board members Monday about the book.

He said the book is used by a club called Lions for Justice.

Jenkins said the Lions for Justice club was created as a way to help address racial incidents at the school.

He said the book was not intended to serve as a manual for students or to be divisive. He said students read the book in order to generate discussion and help them look at things from another perspective.

Jenkins said the club as well as a diversity program conducted through a peer leadership group at the school are part of preparing students to be good citizens.

School board member John Dalbey was critical of the book during last month's meeting.

"I only read the cover of the book when I made my statement a month ago," Dalbey said Wednesday. "I have since read the entire book, and my opinion has not changed."

Dalbey argued the book would classify many of the people at Monday's Lansing school board meeting as racists.

He argued it would take a well trained facilitator and involved parents to walk children who are 12 and 13 years old through the book. He suggested the book may be more appropriate for older students.

Dalbey said slavery as well as the treatment of Japanese Americans and Native Americans should not be removed from history books.

Dabley said he was not going to make a motion regarding "This Book is Anti-Racist." But he asked the principal to consider including a book that offers another opinion. He suggested adding a book that argues Americans are making great strides.

Jenkins said middle school students are the focus age for "This Book is Anti-Racist." He said the book gives students a way to have a discussion, but this does not mean the book is the club's entire program.

Runnebaum said the people who are best suited to review curriculum and make recommendations are the people teaching it.

"We do need to leave our curriculum up to our experts," she said.

Board members approved the superintendent's statement regarding critical race theory by a 5-2 vote. Dalbey and board member Pete Robinson voted against the motion, according to Wessel.

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