The Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS) Board disavowed Critical Race Theory (CRT) in its July 8 meeting, saying CRT was not being taught in the school. After public comment, Chair Anna Weddle read a statement supported by all five board members.
“[BCPS] has not and will not be teaching [CRT]. The term is not mentioned in standards, nor in curriculum. This includes the current standards and those standards that will be taught beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. Collectively, we do not support [CRT] in K-12 education in Botetourt County,” the statement said.
WDBJ reported that close to 100 parents attended the meeting. The board added an additional 45 minutes to its public hearing time to accommodate additional speakers. Many speakers spoke against CRT.
During the public comment period, Botetourt resident Carrie Martell said, “I would like to iterate for the school board that in the form of the equity task force and the social and emotional learning standards, policy based on CRT is already in the Botetourt school system. So please stop disingenuously stating that BCPS will ‘not be teaching CRT.'”
Martell said, “The Virginia School Board Association declared March 2021 Equity Month. Feel free to google that. If the VSBA is pushing this on administrators, then administrators are pushing it on teachers who will be passing it on to students directly or indirectly.”
After Weddle read the board’s statement, Board Member Michelle Austin said, “I think one of the most important things that I can do as an elected official is to take the voices that I hear and share that with our elected officials in Richmond. I think that’s part of my job.”
Austin said she had heard the public comment at the previous meeting and received multiple emails. As a result, she spoke with Delegate Terry Austin (R-Bedford), who shared a letter he had written opposing CRT to Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.
Michelle Austin said Terry Austin explained that community members don’t believe school officials’ disavowals of CRT due to fears that upcoming edits to the history curriculum could allow something to slip in.
So, Michelle Austin wrote her own letter to Governor Ralph Northam and Qarni.
She read the letter to the meeting: “The fear that I have heard is that the technical edits to the history curriculum for the 2022-2023 school year may somehow be the start of inappropriate indoctrination of our students. Can the Virginia Department of Education [VDOE] help provide assurance that this is neither the goal nor the intent of the commission of African American history education?”
Her letter expressed concerns over geographical representation of western Virginia on the commission.
She also wrote, “After watching news clips of a recent Loudoun County school board meeting, has the VDOE considered that the resulting controversy could possibly compromise the safety of their students and educators?”
Austin noted that there was still time to reach out to local school boards for input on the history curriculum.
She wrote, “I want to be part of the solution but I presently feel frustrated because none of the decisions thus far have been within the scope of our authority and not all areas of Virginia were represented on the commission.”
Austin told the meeting, “I just wanted you all to know that I have tried to do my part with talking to Richmond, sharing the concerns, and to try to get more than just a statement that our board does not support CRT but to ask harder questions of those in Richmond.”
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