A school board in North Carolina passed a policy banning critical race theory from its classrooms, after county commissioners threatened to withhold $7.9m in funding.
Critical race theory is an academic discipline that examines the ways in which racism operates in US laws and society. The term is widely misunderstood and misused.
Critics argue that it promotes anti-American, anti-capitalist and anti-white values.
Among civil rights groups that have pushed back, the American Civil Liberties Union has said CRT is “about our country reckoning with racism”.
In August, the Republican lieutenant governor of North Carolina, Mark Robinson, released a report in which parents accused teachers of indoctrinating students. Complaints included the use of critical race theory, fear of retaliation and “white shaming”.
One complaint stated: “My son’s sixth-grade English class was working on vocabulary today. All of the words my child was learning were critical race theory ‘buzz’ words such as: bias, discrimination, equity, inequity, racist, etc. The examples for which he had to select the corresponding word were focused entirely on painting white people as the bad people who perpetuate these things.”
In September, the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, vetoed a bill that would have regulated what views public schools could “promote”.
Describing the bill, Cooper said: “The legislature should be focused on supporting teachers, helping students recover lost learning and investing in our public schools. Instead, the bill pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education.”
Late last week, in Johnston county, the school board unanimously approved an updated policy on how history and racism will be taught.
Educators can now be disciplined or fired if they teach that American historical figures were not heroes, challenge the constitution or describe racism as a permanent aspect of American life.
According to the new policy, “all people who contributed to American society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture”.
At a virtual meeting, the school board vice-chair Terri Sessoms said: “When we all work together we can accomplish good things for kids, and this is one of those moments I truly believe has happened.”
April Lee, president of the Johnston County Association of Educators and an eighth-grade social studies teacher, denounced the policy, calling it “basically extortion” and saying the school system was “selling our souls to the devil for $7.9m”.