HCS board asked to take stand on critical race theory

Angel Headden, right, speaks Thursday during a Hardin County Parents for Education news conference before the Hardin County Schools board meeting. More than a dozen community members attended in regard to critical race theory.

More than a dozen community members attended the Hardin County Schools board meeting to discuss critical race theory.

This included a news conference before the meeting by Hardin County Parents for Education, an organization recently founded by Michelle Smith.

With a small group livestreaming, Smith, Angel Headden and Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Bran­den­burg, spoke about critical race theory. Statements were read from Pastor Jerry Westerfield, senior pastor at Bethesda House of Mercy in Elizabethtown, and Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Fort Thomas.

According to the Encyclopedia of Britannica, critical race theory, or CRT, is an “intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed ... category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color.”

Critical race theorists say the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist, and function to maintain power inequalities between whites and people of color, according to the encyclopedia.

“If we allow critical race theory’s politically manufactured ideology to misrepresent American truth, then we are continuing to allow that destructive nature in racial injustices,” Headden said.

Tate said she co-sponsored Bill Request 69, which says it would require education boards to make sure no school offers “any classroom instruction or discussion that promotes designated concepts related to race, sex and religion.”

During the news conference, no specific examples were given regarding the district and CRT. Headden said they were told by a representative from the district CRT is “not an issue for Hardin County.”

Another organization, Moms for Liberty, spoke to the board, which included Hardin County chapter’s founders Katie Keary and Jenny Bowman, who formed it in June.

Bowman, who is the chapter chairwoman, said the organization is a “nonpartisan national group with over 65 chapters in 24 states.”

“Our mission is to hold our school board accountable for decisions affecting our children,” Bowman said.

She said after conducting research, the group determined HCS standards do not include teaching CRT. Still, Bowman said they had concerns regarding the possible implementation of it in the future.

Bowman said CRT is a “Marxist ideology” that “teaches kids should judge each other based on the color of their skin, not on the content of their character,” and that “America is systemically racist and must be dismantled.”

While speaking, Bowman presented one concrete example to the board, which was a print out of a slide from a presentation found on the Kentucky Department of Education website about diversity, equity and inclusion.

The slide is what appears to be a stock photo of people raising their fists in the air. Bowman said this is a “symbol of communism/Marxism.”

She requested the board make a statement to “know where our board of education stands on critical race theory,” and said silence of the board implies consent.

Charlie Wise, board chairman, responded to those who spoke about CRT, and said the board has had some discussion, although CRT is not state-mandated.

“We’re gonna take your comments seriously, and we will at some point have a stand, I’m sure,” Wise said.

In a message composed Friday by Regina Boone, president of the Hardin County Education Association, she compiled the responses of more than 20 HCEA members “of all different races, ethnicities, age groups and grade levels,” according to the message.

The message said the education association agrees legislation should not be passed restricting the teaching of CRT components since it could affect how educators teach and implement American history.

It says Tate’s proposed legislation could diminish or remove discussions and instruction of various historical events including the Civil Rights Movement, slavery in America, the Trail of Tears, Juneteenth, Black Tuesday, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the Arkansas Race Riot (Elaine Massacre of 1919) and the internment of the Japanese during World War II.

“The foundation of America’s democracy cannot be rewritten or white washed because the root of its foundation will now offend or make some uncomfortable,” Boone said.

The message ends with the group saying American history needs to be factual and reality based when taught.

In other board meeting matters:

• John Stith, chief operations officer, gave an update on construction in the district.

He said progress has been made on the new East Hardin Middle School building with gravel no longer being in the path between the parking lot and front door.

Stith said they’re pushing hard to have the building ready for students who need to enroll be at the school July 22-23.

• Wise acknowledged board member Mark Casey had sent in his resignation to the school board, which was approved by the board.

Now, within 30 days of the vacancy, the board will accept applications for the open board seat for two weeks, and will vote to fill the seat by a majority vote within 60 days of the vacancy.

• The board also adopted a resolution to authorize Superintendent Teresa Morgan to support the Council for Better Education Inc. This council currently is legally battling with the “unconstitutionality of the tax credits in House Bill 563, including payment of any appropriate dues or assessments related to this school district’s membership,” according to the board agenda.

HB 563 passed March 30 after overriding Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto, and contains scholarship tax credit legislation which will use $25 million in tax revenue to pay for private school tax credits.

Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1414 or aharp@thenewsenterprise.com.

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