Manhattan-Ogden board members responded to comments received about their recent approval of culturally responsive teaching and learning training.
The approval was given last month, but a recent email chain from the Riley County Republicans urged members of the public to voice their opinion and concerns. The email claimed that the school district “votes to teach students how to be racist.”
The board received emails regarding the subject leading up to the meeting, as well as public comment during the meeting. Only nine people spoke, but well over 60 people were in attendance in support of those speaking.
Board President Jurdene Coleman responded to these claims saying going through these emails was exhausting due to degrading messages. She responded to those emails asking for data showing the negative outcome of students going through this training, to which she says she received no replies.
“There have been claims that we are indoctrinating our students with propaganda that is not founded research, that we are trying to replace the moral compass of families, we are going against God. There have been claims that we do not have those problems here in there for this isn’t even necessary.”
Coleman adds the point of the training is to recognize racial issues in the district and correct them. She adds that the board still has the to be responsive to people when they are displeased with board decisions.
“What’s right is acknowledging that our system of educating students is not equally beneficial to all students and making a commitment to change how that system works. The first step on that journey is being honest about our shortcomings in only then can we talk about we’re going to go.”
Board member Katrina Lewison also responded to these comments saying it is the board’s responsibility to create a climate that values diverse thinking.
“If we are going to teach diverse thought in our school district, that we have with our educators to have those conversations about diversity. It doesn’t just come automatically, you gotta train your educators how to have those conversations. I’m delighted there’s so much community excitement about diversity training.”
Those members of the public discussed judging people on the content of their character. Lewison says to do this effectively they must recognize the diversity in the district and any unintentional biases. Board member Curt Herman also responded to the party’s claim that the motion that passed in April was legally flawed.
“[I heard a lot of] calls of hysteria. We weren’t going to vote on this tonight, we never were going to vote on this tonight. Nothing illegal about the motion be made. I think the implication that we’re making illegal motions as a board is also completely false and again too you know there is probably sixty people that were here and not one of them were going to run for the school board.”
Lewison says the importance of this training is to equip educators to have tough conversations about race and diversity. Coleman says it is still the responsibility of the board to be responsive to people when they are displeased with board decisions.
A PDF version of the email can be viewed below.PDF_ACTION REQUEST; District School Board 383 Votes to Teach Students Howto Be Racists