ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) – School leaders in Albemarle County are championing the district’s anti-racism policies and programs, saying it is a student-led effort.
This comes as a result of confusion among parents and guardians about what is taught in a program called “Courageous Conversations,” piloted at Henley Middle School.
Graham Paige, chairman of the county school board, said he heard both sides of the parents’ argument at board meetings.
“Some say that we are trying to divide the students, that we are trying to promote racial hatred, and then others, in fact, really the majority I think, are really saying that they support the program and that they can see it. ‘importance of the program in our schools,’ he explained.
Julie Govan, a relative in Henley, said she heard from parents worrying that students are too young to learn about certain topics related to race and identity. Even though she says she understands, she supports the program.
“Kids don’t wait to be told when to have conversations. This means that we are essentially forced to choose between two things: children having these conversations without the support of informed adults who have training or children having conversations without the support of informed adults, ”said Govan. “If I have to choose both, I would always prefer the knowledgeable teacher who leads the conversation or manages the conversation or navigates to avoid harming a student when a conversation goes awry and the kids decide they want to run with it.” . “
Paige has said in previous meetings that several parents have claimed the program teaches Critical Breed Theory, or CRT. In a letter, the board said it was wrong.
The district, however, has a program called “Culturally Appropriate Education”, also known as CRT, for teachers, which goes hand in hand with the district’s anti-racism policy.
“We try to make sure that all of our students recognize the importance of all other racial groups and the contributions of all racial groups,” Paige said.
The anti-racism policy it coincides with was written by students in 2018 and was officially adopted in 2019. The district was one of the first in the Commonwealth to do so.
Now the policy is both shaped and supported by students, including Mary Govan, a rising junior at Albemarle High.
“As an Asian American I can’t escape these topics and I need my teachers and peers to know how to have these conversations with me when I’m around and feel safe,” said Govan at a board meeting in June. ten.
Govan is a member of the county’s Student Equity Advisory Team (SEAT).
“It gives everyone the opportunity to express who they are and what they have to offer,” Govan said.
Karen Waters-Wicks, who helps facilitate SEAT, said it was all student-centered, dating back to the early days of anti-racism policy.
“They believed, as the authors of this policy, that students continue to have a voice in this work,” Waters-Wicks said.
Paige said the district has no plans to reverse its anti-racism policy. He said it works to help close the achievement gaps between different groups of students and to make students feel more comfortable in school.
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