Rantz: District tells staff to defend critical race theory, but deny they teach it
This is part of an ongoing series by the Jason Rantz Show exploring equity and critical race theory training in Washington schools.
Staff in the Puyallup School District received partisan talking points to use with parents to deny that they teach critical race theory (CRT). But they’re also expected to defend the theory. Staff was even armed with ways to attack Republicans when confronted by parents over the topic.
Staff must “reframe” conversations about CRT when parents bring them up, according to one memo. They are to focus the discussion in less controversial terms to the public. And the attention should move away from race to concentrate on other issues. Another document explicitly claims racist Republicans are standing in the way of true equity via CRT.
Alarmingly, the memo explicitly tells teachers to deny that they use CRT at their school. But staff do use a CRT lens when looking at so-called equity. Even an internal document distributed by Puyallup High School says so.
Puyallup High School memos on CRT
The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH obtained several documents from Puyallup High School’s online staff dashboard. The talking points memos were sent district-wide. It offers a look at how and why the district instructs to deflect criticisms of CRT.
“It’s correct that our administrators have been provided with PSD-specific talking points to address critical race theory with staff and families in the event they are engaged in conversation,” a spokesperson confirmed to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
The Puyallup School District (PSD) unveiled a memo to schools titled “Common Messaging for Administrators” in August 2021. The topic is “Critical Race Theory in Schools.”
“For years, we have focused on developing capacity in our educators that support student achievement, equitably and inclusively,” the memo says. “This equity lens helps us close opportunity gaps and ensures that our systems are set up so that all students benefit from rigorous academic and vocational programs.”
It offers three main talking points before tackling CRT more directly. They center on the data collection the school engages so that it eventually creates “target supports to improve higher levels of achievement for all student groups.”
But then it tackles CRT with frequently asked questions.
Is CRT taught in Puyallup Schools?
No. We will continue to review and respond to data that reveals disparity in school discipline and achievement for the purpose of ensuring all students have opportunity to succeed in our schools.
It’s true that CRT, the academic and legal framework, isn’t taught in school. There’s no CRT 101 course on the books. But it’s a purposefully misleading claim that CRT proponents use to deflect from the work they’re doing. Indeed, they use the CRT lens in everything in the PSD. It’s why staff get talking points to defend CRT.
Defending CRT memo
Staff was also given a June 2021 Q&A memo on CRT by the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA). It broadly defends CRT while using a semantics game to claim it’s not taught.
“Critical race theory is not centered on blaming individuals or making anyone feel guilty. It focuses on understanding how race plays a role in how institutions like education serve people,” the WSSDA memo claims.
But this assertion is false. CRT does aim to guilt people into politically motivated changes.
A recent example in the Northshore School District involved a science teacher showing a video to students on white privilege. White people expressed their literal guilt and discomfort with so-called privileges they pretended to have. Students learn that their identity will hold them back — unless they’re white.
The WSSDA memo also tells staff how to deal with parents or community members upset with CRT in schools. It instructs them to “reframe the discussion by sharing the goals and efforts within your district to ensure every student has access to an equitable education and what they need to be successful.”
Both the WSSDA and PSD memos subtly blame the debate on CRT on politics. But one article shared by Puyallup High School viciously targets Republicans.
Puyallup High School blames racist Republicans
Though the district promises to be nonpartisan in its treatment of these issues, Puyallup High School provides an anti-Republican, left-wing screed that portrays white people as inherently racist (a tenet of CRT thinking). It’s unclear if other schools offered this same resource.
It’s a defense of CRT by Dr. Shayla Griffin of Justice Leaders Collaborative. In it, she complains that the “far right co-opted” the term CRT to maintain racism. She says it’s a strategy of “tapping into the fears of white Americans that they will lose something if people of color are treated more fairly.”
“There is an organized far-right movement to stop racial progress in our country,” she writes, which came out of the Black Lives Matter movement, the election of Joe Biden, and a “national racial reckoning.” She falsely claims that the right is seeking to ban “anything related to race, racism, or any other social issues.”
“[CRT critics] are simply using it as the latest talking point to hinder movement toward a more inclusive country,” she writes. “For justice-minded people who support diversity, equity, and inclusion, there is nothing problematic about critical race theory.”
Isn’t this outrageously partisan?
The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH asked the district if this Griffin screed is considered nonpartisan and neutral. After all, the district claims that its “staff are trained to facilitate discussion and learning with a neutral, nonpartisan lens.” District spokesperson Sarah Gillispie deflected.
“In Puyallup, our focus remains on creating a culture of belonging in our schools. We are able to do that best by teaching and learning with a neutral, nonpartisan lens – while respecting and dignifying all types of student thought and experiences,” Gillispie explained to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
She continued: “This article is not intended for students. Learning to think critically about hard things, like racism, is a core part of learning. We know that in order to support this, we need to facilitate safe discussions so students can identify it, talk about it, and learn from it.”
They can’t be objective
How can staff facilitate nonpartisan discussions if the training they receive is anything but nonpartisan? The Griffin piece explicitly calls out Republicans as racist.
“The long-term ability of the Republican party to win elections at the local, state, and federal levels is coming into question as the nation gets more racially diverse and as more white people are unwilling to support racist politicians or policies,” Griffin writes. “Put simply, the more people ‘get woke’ to issues of race and racism, especially white people, the harder it is for the far right to maintain cultural and political power. ”
And despite PSD’s claims, the Griffin piece says CRT is a part of school offerings.
“If your school or district has committed to diversity, inclusion, equity, social justice, or anti-racism, there are probably some elements inspired by or built on the foundation of critical race theory as conceptualized by the originators, even if no one has called it that,” she writes.
High school’s documents prove they use CRT
Griffin is right to note that schools use CRT in their equity work. They just don’t call it that. A review of the material confirms that a CRT-lens interprets data and establishes goals.
“CRT is a framework that is used to help understand why racial inequities exist in our systems and how to eliminate them. In the education system, it can be used to understand issues of disparity in school discipline, tracking and standardized testing,” the WSSDA memo reads.
This is precisely what the PSD is doing. They don’t hide it.
“Data disaggregation by student groups is a federal requirement and helps us analyze how differences impact a variety of outcomes, including academic growth, student discipline, and graduation rates,” according to the PSD memo.
The school and district also tout upcoming WSSDA equity training, which the state legislature mandates. Republican lawmakers called it CRT in disguise, while Democrat lawmakers and educators said otherwise.
But the WSSDA uses the same language used by CRT advocates. Their training aims to “dismantle” systems of oppression.
The district hopes to use semantics games to avoid calling what they’re doing CRT.
Conservatives have been influential in labeling this brand as toxic. It’s easy when working with content that is toxic and dangerous. But progressive activists want to keep the objectionable material in schools to instill the ideology in young students when they’re most susceptible to indoctrination.
Consequently, the district changes the language it uses when discussing this issue. The Griffin piece doesn’t hide the strategy. She says to avoid using the term “critical race theory” and instead use softer and less controversial language.
Instead, utilize terminology appropriate to your district or campus when referring to your efforts — terms you have already been using to talk about the specific work you have already been doing. Some examples: “equity,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” “DEI,” “social justice,” “education justice,” “multiculturalism,” “cultural proficiency,” “anti-bias,” “anti-racist” “accurate history.”
Is this dishonest campaign to push CRT justified? Griffin seems to think so.
“To reemphasize: the people leading these efforts [to ban CRT] do not have any interest in deeply understanding critical race theory. They simply want to stop progress. The entire debate is disingenuous,” Griffin claims while arguing disingenuously. “This is a disinformation campaign meant to ban schools generally from talking about race and racism.”
If you’re against CRT indoctrination in the classroom, the PSD seems to think you’re a racist who wants to stop racial progress.
Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook.
- Tune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.