As parents across Bucks County continue to adamantly oppose school districts’ new focus on equity, board members are standing by the work, which they are fiercely defending as separate from “critical race theory.”
During recent Council Rock and Bristol Township school board meetings, numerous parents stood up during the public comment portions. Many expressed fear that their children will actually be taught critical race theory, which, according to Britannica, states that the United States is “inherently racist” and maintains “social, economic and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.” Parents are afraid that their children will be taught to view their friends of various races differently.
In the Council Rock School District, the board voted in the spring to bring in an outside team from the University of Pennsylvania Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence and Equity to conduct an equity study. The team would report on Council Rock’s strengths and weaknesses in this area for a cost of $20,000. Joseph Hidalgo was the single “no” vote.”
Several parents bashed the board for approving the study. One stated how the group was influenced by Superintendent Dr. Robert Fraser and wasn’t aware of what it was actually voting for.
Ed Tate begged to differ.
“I object to about 99 percent of what the speaker just said. First of all, the board was completely aware of the details of the contract that we agreed to support with the University of Pennsylvania team to do the analysis of curriculum. I think it is a very wise thing to do,” Tate said. “One of the things it looks at is equity in the way we track students, as in, what track students get assigned to and whether or not that’s done fair and equitably.
“That’s not a matter of race, it’s a matter of students’ backgrounds, preparation and so forth. I consider that really critical because that’s early in a student’s career. In middle and high school, we’re helping to determine their potential career track. It’s important to know if we’re doing that properly and fairly.”
At the Bristol Township meeting, one mother said, “I really hope to God that you don’t teach that kind of cr*p in my kid’s life because I teach my kid, there’s nothing greater than judging a person by their character, never their color.”
She added, “They’re innocent children who love and appreciate each other just because they’re good kids and they like each other. It has nothing to do with color. It has everything to do with character.”
Another said, “Equity is not the same as equality. We are all equal, we all bleed the same color, we all have the same opportunities. Why are we teaching our kids equity? Oh, because you can’t get it then I’m gonna give you a level up a little bit. No. We’re all equal. We’re all given the same choices every day to do our school work, to do our homework and be good people. It should be the parents teaching their kids to love everybody.”
The board responded that Bristol Township will not teach critical race theory and stood by its equity initiatives.
In other news, both boards voted to make mask wearing optional for the 2021-22 school year. This pleased the majority of parents, except one Council Rock father, who was not happy about the board’s decision to remove the mask mandate with only a few hours’ notice. He didn’t understand why the new policy couldn’t go into effect the following Monday.
“This decision showed a callous disregard for those families who made school attendance decisions based on the expectation of mask wearing,” he said, adding that his son had no choice but to attend in-person because of a science test.
Meanwhile, parents pleaded with board members to not make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for students after numerous cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, occurred in adolescents after receiving it.
The Bucks County Department of Health is no longer requiring districts to complete contact tracing. Additionally, social distancing will not be enforced for the upcoming academic year. The deep cleaning and fogging of different surfaces will also be tapered off.
“It will go back to normal capacities,” said James P. Morgan III, president of the Bristol Township school board. “In formulating this plan, we met with the Bucks County Department of Health and the superintendents from Bucks County. I can say to you with confidence that our plan matches, or is very similar to, all of the other plans from the county public schools. If the CDC or anyone else changes any regulations down the line, this plan gives us the flexibility to adjust to meet those state or federal mandates.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com