CLARION TWP. - In its August work session/regular meeting, the Clarion-Limestone School Board accepted the first reading of a policy regarding the district's philosophy of education and its teaching of non-traditional subjects.
Now some of the board members who voted to approve the first reading want to table the issue for further discussion.
Board members Joe Billotte and Kathy Henry were adamant in their request to have the issue tabled for further discussion.
Henry said she believes the issue is too controversial in nature and a vote on it could possibly have an effect on the C-L School Board candidates who are up for reelection in November.
"This subject matter has become politically charged, all over Facebook, all through the newspaper," Henry said. "Right now there are people who are running for board seats and I do not think this is the time or the place to have this discussion."
Henry was under the belief there would be further discussion regarding the matter and she said she believed the items listed as non-traditional teaching subjects needing board approval would continue to grow.
Billotte said he believes the online reaction to the approval of the first reading of the policy made it a political issue. He said he wanted to see the policy reviewed again by a different group of individuals to see if the outcome would be the same.
Billotte also said he believes there wasn't enough discussion regarding the Critical Race Theory prior to the first reading.
Board member Gary Sproul was arguably the most vocal proponent of passing the second reading of the policy.
"I think we need to pass this because you have parents across the country disgusted by the teaching of Critical Race Theory," Sproul said. "Just yesterday a teacher claimed that teaching children to behave in a classroom is white supremacy."
Sproul continued, "Critical Race Theory is a philosophy framework based in Marxist thought. It came about in the 1970s by black activists who were disenchanted with the civil rights movement."
Sproul also took issue with Billotte's hesitation on approving the second reading of the policy.
"Joe, you voted for this last time but what do you know about Critical Race Theory? You don't know anything," Sproul said.
Board member Larry Jamison jumped to Billotte's defense on the subject.
"Gary, you are welcome to your own comments and your own recesses but when you start attacking other board members like you did via email, that's where I am going to draw the line," Jamison said. "Although we don't have a code of conduct for what happened we do have a code of conduct on how you treat another board member, whether you agree or not."
Jamison went on to urge Sproul to apologize to Billotte. Sproul agreed and did apologize.
Student representative Celia Shaffer took issue with some of the language in the policy.
"It mentions in the third paragraph that policy shall ensure social justice should not be advocated or presented. Why are we not permitting that?" Shaffer said. "Can anyone clarify that for me?"
Board President Nathaniel Parker responded, "If you keep reading, it says if it's approved by the board in advance. I don't think there is any intent to change or remove existing curriculum because I believe we have heard from several different teachers that say we are not employing any of (the items listed on the non-traditional subject list). My understanding was we wanted to be proactive on the issue and if they wanted to delve into these subjects, they would have to come before the board and the board could give its approval."
During the public comment portion of the meeting, district resident Hannah Allison rhetorically asked the board since the second reading of the philosophy of education forbids the teaching of any type of social justice how the district would compensate for the funding they will lose by canceling the anti-bullying program, the "friendship bag" program and any other programs that students are encouraged to participate in because those programs fall under the umbrella of social justice.
Allison also questioned how the district would allow teaching about Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and others.
"They are factual historical figures who did exist and encouraged people to think critically about the fact that racial differences do impact daily lives and who challenged the social and government systems of their times who were unfairly biased against people of color," Allison said.
C-L Superintendent Amy Glasl clarified the difference between what are individual acts and what is curriculum.
"A teacher taking nine weeks and teaching the Critical Race Theory is considered curriculum and that needs to be approved by the school board," Glasl said. "The friendship bags Miss Allison brought up are showing social justice. Talking and teaching about Harriet Tubman, doing some of the other social justice programs we do here at the school is absolutely permissible. That is not what this policy is.
"(The things that I mentioned) are an act of social justice by showing compassion and showing empathy. Curriculum is taught longer than a week. It doesn't say you can't teach (alternative education) subjects, you just have to get it approved. All of those wonderful things we do (for social justice) will continue."
The second reading of the policy was approved by a 6-2 vote with Billotte and Henry voting no. Board member Corry Bish was not present at the meeting.