ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in St. Johns County schools or any public schools in the state, residents who attended a St. Johns County School Board meeting Tuesday spoke out against the controversial idea.
Experts say critical race theory is a toolkit for examining current laws and policies and addressing racism and other forms of marginalization in schools. Those who spoke during the meeting Tuesday said the curriculum itself is racist.
“I’m opposed to this because the basis of critical race theory is teaching you to hate people based on the color of their skin,” parent Alicia Winpisinger told the board. “You want equality across the races, you want everybody to have equal opportunity, not based on the color of your skin, and critical race theory brings it down to, you are the color of your skin. That is backwards. We don’t need to go backwards. We need to go forward.”
Although critical race theory wasn’t an agenda item Tuesday, the idea has become a talking point and popular target for Republican leaders, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
On Thursday, the State Board of Education will consider a rule during a meeting in downtown Jacksonville that would place strict guidelines on the way teachers deliver U.S. history lessons, the Tampa Bay Times reported. DeSantis said it’s a move in meant to combat critical race theory.
DeSantis, who some predict will run for president of the United States in 2024, has said teaching the theory can create division.
“Let me be clear: there’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory,” DeSantis said in March. “Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.”
Critics have said the push to ban the teaching of the theory is an attempt to whitewash history and limit discussions about how race affects society.
“Students deserve the best education we can provide, and that means giving them a true picture of their world and our shared history as Americans. Hiding facts doesn’t change them. Give kids the whole truth and equip them to make up their own minds and think for themselves,” said Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar. “If giving students a good education is the goal, the rule could be amended to say in part: ‘Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow.’”
St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson said critical race theory is not taught in St. Johns County public schools and there are no discussions to add the theory to the curriculum.
“I’ve responded to it to a few parents who ask is critical race theory taught? And no, it’s not,” Forson told News4Jax. “I think sometimes, folks they are looking for and we even heard today, there are codewords or keys. Well, really we’re going to teach what we have taught and we’re gonna align ourselves with the standards that are most appropriate to be taught. So no, we’re not really aligning or moving towards anything that’s not consistent with what we’ve done in the past.”
In speaking out against the theory, DeSantis said he would turn his “political apparatus” against Republican school board candidates who went against his educational reforms, Florida Politics reported.
“We’re not going to support any Republican candidate for school board who supports Critical Race Theory in all 67 counties or supports mandatory masking of school children,” DeSantis said on Fox News.
Forson said he will monitor what comes out of Thursday’s state board meeting and respond accordingly.