Huntsville School Board election sparks controversy over teaching equity and gender

Parents and candidates are expressing concern about the school system in the city of Huntsville ahead of the upcoming Board Of Education (BOE) elections.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has surged to the forefront of political discourse in recent years, particularly in the field of education.

Although CRT is an academic legal theory that offers a particular perspective on marginalized or oppressed groups, it has become a common term applied to most teachings about gender equality, oppression and racism, in contexts legal, cultural or educational.

While some have lamented opponents of the CRT for including gender and LGBTQ+ activism under the CRT umbrella, the theory’s founders have repeatedly asserted that it is not limited to the legal realm.

Huntsville was the cause of controversy in December 2021. A parent filed a complaint with the state’s BOE, alleging a teacher training course where certain CRT principles were discussed. The parent listed the key terms discussed during the presentation of the diversity training module: covenant, (white) privilege, equity, implicit bias, racism, racism-sensitive pedagogy and discrimination.

Angela McClure, who is running for Huntsville BOE District 3, said she had personal experience with some concepts taught in Huntsville schools.

McClure said: “I have a daughter in seventh grade and she used to come home with these really weird ideas; she was introduced to a lot of ideas that did not come from us, ideas that convinced her.

“This ideology that liberals are pushing is in our schools; it is in our curriculum and teachers are not held accountable for what they say in class. Children should not be exposed to who they are married to, what political party they like and what gender they belong to. Teachers shouldn’t ask these kinds of questions to children.

An example provided by McClure was an email sent by a Huntsville City Schools guidance counselor, Nancy Wolfe.

“I try to be open and inclusive with my students who prefer other pronouns and let them know that I support them,” Wolfe’s email read.

“Including pronouns in your email signature and social media profiles is an important step towards inclusivity,” said Gina Battye, LGBT+ inclusion consultant. “It shows you care about people’s preferences and is a simple solution to accidental gender errors.”

Several of those who spoke to 1819 News expressed concern over District 4 incumbent Ryan Renaud, who openly shared his recommendations for modern works on CRT. books like white fragilityby Robin DiAngelo Critical Race Theory: An Introductionby Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, appeared on Renaud’s Facebook page, where he gave them a reading suggestion.

Andrea Alvarez, who is running for District 2, expressed her desire to learn from both sides of the debate but does not want to see indoctrination in the school system.

Referring to the guidance counselor’s email, Alvarez said she believed the counselor had the best intentions which fell short of the school system not providing proper guidance.

“The world is changing so fast,” Alvarez said. “I don’t think the schools in the city of Huntsville have provided proper guidance to our teachers on how to deal with these emerging social issues.

“I feel like this guidance counselor thought she was doing what she thought was the best thing to do to make her students feel inclusive, and I think that read badly, and I think it offended people.”

Alvarez said both sides of this debate should be heard.

“I think we have to listen to everyone,” Alvarez said. “I have kids in primary school, and it’s not a topic I knew about before I got into this race, and I’ve been enlightened by the far left and the far right about what they think about it. I think I have a good understanding of both sides. I think we can come to some common ground where we’re inclusive without doing any kind of indoctrination and talking about it to students who don’t. may not know otherwise.

Sean Lulofs runs against Alvarez. Describing himself as a “lifelong conservative,” Lulofs says CRT-based teaching is to blame for the lack of discipline in the school system.

“Discipline has become an extreme issue for this school district,” Lulofs said. “One of the reasons is the CRT and SEL (social and emotional learning) curriculum which is getting bigger every day.”

Alvarez said all matters related to matters within the jurisdiction of individual school superintendents cannot be voted on by the BOE unless the superintendent explicitly recommends it.

A parent, Josh Ulrich, spoke to 1819 news about his concern about teaching in the school system.

“Home is where the morals of children come in, because I can’t tell a child from a Muslim home not to be from that religion,” Ulrich said. “But I can tell all the kids that American society respects the sanctity of life, the pursuit of freedom, and the American dream of happiness. It’s not institutionally racist.

“The CRT is racist and not part of American society. Learning comes from failure, but not from condemnation. Our schools must recognize mistakes, but offer solutions to overcome these mistakes towards continuation. [striving] for real.”

District 8 Pro Tempore State BOE President Wayne Reynolds said the BOE has put in place enough guidelines to prevent CRT or other similar concepts from entering Alabama schools.

“The State BOE, and in particular me, decided that we had to react and not have teaching that offered an advantage for one breed over another.”

Reynolds contends that, other than the December complaint, he has seen no evidence that CRT or similar concepts are taught in Alabama schools.

“The State Board of Education passed my motion regarding the CRT,” Reynolds said. “We have described the content so that schools using the content but not using the term CRT may be prohibited from teaching. Don’t be distracted by political rhetoric or campaign propaganda. Anyone claiming that we teach CRT in any school in Alabama must provide proof, and the State Board of Education will take action.

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