Wake County high school may seek grant from pro-CRT group

The Wake County school system will vote on allowing a Raleigh high school to apply for a grant from a Triangle group that promotes how teachers can use Critical Race Theory in schools.

The school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether or not it will let Millbrook High School apply for an educator training grant from the organization called we are (Working to Extend Anti-Racist Education). Durham-based we have organized events such as the “Let’s Talk Racism” Conference in March, where the theme was “Seeing Critical Race Theory in Our Schools: From Theory to PRAXIS.”

“Millbrook High School has expressed interest in pursuing a grant from the non-profit organization we are,” Matt Dees, a Wake school spokesman, said in an email Monday. “The Office of Grants and Strategic Advancement is seeking board approval for this and other potential sources of grant funding.

“The we are grant would be ‘to support projects that disrupt racial discipline disparities or to support the creation of racial equity teams.’ Millbrook is the only school that has expressed interest in pursuing this grant.”

The grant is on the board’s consent agenda, meaning it’s scheduled to be approved with no discussion.

Conservative groups are up in arms over the grant.

“The only thing this school board is disrupting & dismantling is education,” Amy Marshall tweeted Sunday.

Marshall is a former Wake teacher who founded the Carolina Teachers Alliance, which aims to be an alternative to the North Carolina Association of Educators.

The we are group didn’t respond to a voicemail message and emails from The News & Observer on Monday requesting comment.

Is critical race theory taught in schools?

The grant comes at a time when what role Critical Race Theory plays in schools is being hotly debated around the nation.

Demonstrators line up to march to the Johnston County School Board meeting to voice their opposition to a mask mandate and the teaching of critical race theory on Sept. 14, 2021 in Smithfield, NC Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Critical Race Theory holds that racism has been a systemic part of the nation’s history that still influences society today. Some educators say the concept of critical race theory, also called CRT, is only taught in universities.

But schools have been accused of promoting critical race theory concepts when teachers discuss topics such as white privilege and systemic racism.

Since January 2021, 42 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching Critical Race Theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, according to an Education Week analysis. Seventeen states have imposed these bans and restrictions either through legislation or other avenues.

In September, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill passed by Republican lawmakers that they said was targeted at keeping Critical Race Theory from being promoted in North Carolina’s public schools.

Wake County, which is North Carolina’s largest school district, denies it teaches Critical Race Theory. Instead, the district says it encourages teachers to promote inclusive practices designed to reach out to its diverse student enrollment.

Last year, Wake County canceled a course on Critical Race Theory on its staff training website, saying the course had been mistakenly added without proper vetting. In 2020, the district hosted an equity training event where topics such as CRT and “whiteness in ed spaces” were discussed.

‘Dear White Parents’

Ronda Tayor Bullock, a former Durham high school teacher and self-described critical race theorist, founded the we are group. She helped create the “Dear White Parents” ad campaign that encourages white parents to talk with their children early and often about racism.

More recently, Bullock was outspoken after a group of white Chatham County students held a mock slave auction of Black classmates. Bullock was invited by Chatham County Schools to speak at a webinar about confronting racism.

Ronda Taylor Bullock, a former JS Waters School student, implores Chatham County school board members to address racism in Chatham public schools after reports of a “slave auction” of Black students led by classmates at JS Waters School in Goldston sparked outage in the community.

Bullock and we have been vocal about the need to use Critical Race Theory in schools.

“The purpose of this event is to give K-12 educators and pre-service teachers an opportunity to engage in sessions centered on the impact of systemic racism and ways of dismantling it in our schools,” according to the description for the “Let’s Talk Racism” conference. “A CRT framework helps us achieve this goal.”

The group created the educator grant program to provide Pre K-12 teachers with grants of $500 to $1,500.

Marshall of the Carolina Teachers Alliance charged that the grant application is a case of the school board “forcing CRT on students & staff again.”

This story was originally published April 18, 2022 5:11 PM.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.


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