Officials with the Hamilton County School System say, no, they did not force teachers to sit through a white privilege training session.
Instead, they had teachers take a curriculum explaining why, among other things, students from urban communities are prone to disrupt class and have other behavioral problems.
And these students make trouble in school because of trauma at home, said Hamilton County School Board member Tiffanie Robinson.
This lesson is one of many taught as part of an Adverse Childhood Experiences program — or ACES for short.
According to state records, this program is statewide and cost taxpayers nearly $3 million for Fiscal Year 2019.
“If you have a student constantly acting out, and you’re choosing to maybe send him or her to the principal’s office or to expel them then maybe you’re doing this without really understanding what their background is and where they are coming from. Frequently expelling these students that have had adverse experiences makes them disengaged,” Robinson told The Tennessee Star.
“But if a teacher can understand a student is acting this way because of the home life they are experiencing then they will hopefully come up with alternative ways to discipline the child because the child should understand the way they are acting.”
These students, Robinson went on say, routinely see gun violence, drug abuse, and other traumatic events that affect their ability to focus.
According to Tennessee Department of Children’s Services spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals, the program got $2.8 million of state money for Fiscal Year 2019 and will get $2.4 million in Fiscal Year 2020.
According to DCS’s website, officials in other counties use this money to teach parents how to mentor their children and have stable employment, among other things.
The money will also pay for what are known as sensory calming rooms for elementary school students.
Hamilton County Schools’ spokesman Tim Hensley told The Star in an emailed statement this week that school system officials regret people mistook the ACES training for a white privilege curriculum. Hensley, though, said event organizers did discuss white privilege with teachers that day.
“White privilege was one of several terms on slides during the short part of the presentation,” Hensley wrote.
As reported this week, school board member Rhonda Thurman said she plans to hold school system employees accountable for what she said is a white privilege curriculum regardless of what other people call it. She said she’ll do this even if she is the only board member to do so.
As The Star reported last week, the curriculum taught teachers that “people of color cannot be racist because they lack the institutional power to adversely affect white lives.”
The curriculum also taught that white privilege exists because of enduring racism and biases.
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