School board stops ordering textbooks with protest photo after complaints of ‘dividing teachings’ – The Virginian-Pilot

The Williamsburg-James City County School Board decided not to purchase four new social studies textbooks after some citizens complained that a book promotes “dividing teachings” and teaches critical race theory.

The textbook “Government in America: People, Politics and Policy” is taught in public school Advanced Placement Politics and Government courses. The W-JCC school system was looking to replace books on U.S. government, economics, and history in order to update its curriculum.

But after a citizen review period that some council members said was too short and sparked complaints, the school board on Tuesday voted 4-3 not to approve the $130,921 textbook purchase. By doing so, schools will lose their chance to buy new textbooks for another year. During this time, students should use textbooks that are at least 12 years old.

While some school board members worried the textbooks would cause division, others said students deserved to be taught with the most up-to-date materials.

“This amazing country has been one of constant social and political change since its inception,” said Kyra Cook, one of three board members who voted to buy the book. “It is a constant dynamic iterative process between his government and his people, for the people, by the people. I think social and political change is part of our DNA, so I think it’s appropriate to teach that.

According to the school division, the proposed textbooks are aligned with the Virginia Department of Education’s learning standard with new, up-to-date information. In addition, all proposed textbooks came with an e-book with a read-aloud feature that would meet the needs of all students.

The books had already been approved by the state Department of Education, which pre-approved them before releasing a list of suggested titles. W-JCC Schools Superintendent Olwen Herron recommended the purchase of textbooks.

To select new books for its schools, the W-JCC school board establishes a textbook committee consisting of a program coordinator, specialists, parents, administrators, and a member of the school board. From there, the committee reviews the books and makes a preliminary decision before offering the options for citizens’ consideration. This year, the review process ran from February 18 to March 11.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, a handful of residents showed up to protest the government and politics manual. One man claimed he was biased and left-leaning, while another resident claimed the photo on the front was a form of indoctrination.

The handbook contains examples of civil and political unrest in the country and also details current events and how they are shaping public policy. The cover of the book is a photograph of a protest outside the United States Capitol with signs visibly reading “Silence is Violence”, “No Justice, No Peace” and “Stop Killing Black People “.

Phyllis Eastman, who said she has no children in the school system, called the cover photo “diverse.”

John Slokavitz told the board that he took issue with an excerpt that discussed President Joe Biden’s electoral policy goals.

“I mean, that’s what we give to students,” Slokavitz said. “You have pictures of police holding black people. I mean, it’s out of control. I plead with educated people to stop this, enough is enough. »

Critical Race Theory, which was raised at the meeting, is not taught at the K-12 school level or at the undergraduate college level. It was first theorized in the 1970s to provide graduate law students with a better understanding of race relations and how they relate to civil and criminal matters.

Although he found nothing wrong with the overall content of the manual, board chairman Greg Dowell said the book was controversial, so he couldn’t vote for it if he could. cause a new “community division”.

“The reason I voted no on that one…was just because we’re coming out of a period of discord in our community and our country and it’s getting to us all,” Dowell said. “Will this help us bring our community together or will it drive a deeper wedge between us?”

Four people spoke at Tuesday’s meeting about the manual. Council vice-chairman Jim Beers, pointing out that the council had only heard from a select few against the program, told his colleagues that it was unfair for them to vote for the minority opposition.

Dowell, Sarah Ortego, Sandra Young and Julie Hummel were against buying the book. Ortego, who served on one of the textbook committees, said she didn’t think the three-week citizen review period was long enough. Young cited similar sentiments.

In an attempt to find common ground, Hummel voted against adopting the textbooks, but moved a new motion to approve the entire social studies curriculum except for the textbook in question. The motion didn’t get a second and died on the floor.

Other textbooks that will not be purchased include the Virginia Studies textbook, “Our Virginia: Past and Present”, the Advanced Placement US History textbook, “By the People: A History of the United States”, and the AP economics textbook, “Principles of Economics.”

The board passed the proposed $387,789.54 purchase and approval of four new science textbooks by a 5-2 vote. But the school division will have to wait at least another year before buying new. social studies materials.

In order to purchase the textbooks in time for delivery and distribution, the council had to make a decision at the meeting. Without approval, they will have to wait until the next budget cycle to determine if they have the funds to replace the materials.

“I’m disappointed with the action we took today,” Cook said. “I think we have deprived our children of new textbooks and deprived our teachers of the possibility of using new materials. Our staff followed a rigorous process and identified opportunities for improvement.

The school board will hold its next meeting on May 3.

Em Holter, [email protected], 757-256-6657, @EmHolterNews

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