RENO (AP) — One year after protests over racial injustices and police violence swept the country, clashes over how to teach students about racism and its role in U.S. history are raging in school districts across Nevada and elsewhere, stoking culture wars over curriculums and strategic plans that have previously received far less attention.
In Washoe County, a debate over a proposal to expand the K-5 curriculum to include more teaching about equity, diversity and racism has drawn crowds to local school board meetings, forcing officials to arrange overflow rooms and set up loudspeakers outdoors to accommodate attendees. Superintendent Kristen McNeill on Tuesday recommended the district form a task force to review curriculum instead of implementing the plan.
In Carson City, a proposal to incorporate concepts like equity into the strategic plan raised parental concerns about how schools broach the topic of race.
And in Clark County, the Black mother of a mixed-race student is suing a Las Vegas charter school over a “Sociology of Change” course that covers the concept of privilege as it pertains to race, gender and sexual orientation.
In each, opponents have branded lesson plans as critical race theory, which draws a line from slavery and segregation to contemporary inequities and argues that racism remains embedded in laws and institutions.
The clashes mirror fights underway throughout the U.S. In GOP-controlled statehouses, lawmakers have passed measures prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory, claiming the lesson plans proposed constitute indoctrination and teach students to hate the United States.
In Nevada, lawmakers approved a proposal last month to add multicultural education to social studies curriculum standards and teach students about the historic contributions of members of additional racial and ethnic groups.
Although both Carson City School District and Washoe County School District insist that critical race theory isn’t part of their curriculums or plans, the nationwide discussion has touched down locally and stoked fears among those who doubt administrators’ explanations.
“You say there’s no CRT in this curriculum,” Sparks resident Bruce Parks said at the Tuesday board meeting in Reno. “It is being taught in our schools right now. When you use words and language like ‘white male privilege’ ‘systemic racism,’ that’s straight out of CRT.”
Opponents of Washoe County’s curriculum proposal camped on the eastern side of the entrance to a packed local school board meeting on Tuesday, wearing MAGA hats and carrying signs that read “No CRT,” “CRT teaches racism,” and “The School Board works for the people!”
To combat concerns about ideological indoctrination, the Nevada Family Alliance has proposed outfitting teachers with body cameras to ensure they aren’t indoctrinating students in classrooms.
On the other side of the entrance, students, parents and teachers wore green T-shirts and carried signs with slogans including “Amplify Student Voices” to signify support for “Washoe County School District Students for Change,” a group that has pushed for curriculum additions.
“These are systemic issues, and they’ve been here for a long time. But I think the protests last year really gave light to how divided people were and how polarized people were,” said Michael Arreyguy, a college student who attended Washoe County schools. “There’s people who don’t want to acknowledge that these problems exist — that there is systemic racism and injustice.”