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What Gainesville, Hall school leaders say about teaching critical race theory following state board’s resolution

Despite the Georgia Board of Education’s resolution Thursday regarding teaching American history in schools, officials from Hall County and Gainesville school districts said their American history curricula will not be affected. 

The resolution, which passed 11-2 June 3, states that Georgia is not a racist state, nor America a racist country. The symbolic resolution also states that slavery and other instances of historical racism are deviations from the country’s “founding principles.” 

On May 20, Gov. Brian Kemp wrote a letter urging the board to prevent Critical Race Theory from being taught in Georgia schools. In his letter, Kemp called the curriculum “divisive and anti-American,” as well as “blatantly partisan.”

“I applaud the members of the State Board of Education for making it clear this dangerous, anti-American ideology has no place in Georgia classrooms," Kemp wrote in a statement Thursday.

The board’s letter also states that teachers cannot be compelled by any school or school district to “discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.” The resolution focuses largely on preventing teaching that one race is superior to another or that anyone is inherently racist or oppressive based on their own gender or race. But the resolution does not mention Critical Race Theory by name. 

According to the encyclopedia Britannica, Critical Race Theory states that race is a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color. The theory was officially organized in 1989, and the theory deemphasizes the role of personal bias in racism in light of larger institutional and systemic methods that contribute to inequities along racial lines.

Officials from both Hall County Schools and Gainesville City Schools said they are not aware of Critical Race Theory being taught in their current curricula.

Will Schofield

Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said he wants the county’s classrooms to be a space to openly discuss different views, and he would not support teaching Critical Race Theory. 

“The whole idea of making any group of people out to be supremacists and another group of people to be victims — I really think that history would speak against that being any kind of pathway to respect and equity,” Schofield said. 

Discussions of American history should include all races, not just Black and White, he said. 

“It appears to me we would make a lot more progress by celebrating what we have in common and having zero tolerance for treating anybody less than the same,” Schofield said. “Whether it has to do with how much money is in their pockets or what color their skin is or what church they attend, and that’s not what this (Critical Race Theory) smells like to me.”

Chairman of Hall County’s Board of Education, Craig Herrington said that the board had not had any recent discussion about Critical Race Theory.

“We don’t have any intention of bringing up the topic of Critical Race Theory in our discussions at this time,” Herrington said. “We’ll continue with the education process that we have in place.”

Jeremy Williams --NEW
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams

Gainesville City Schools has also not discussed Critical Race Theory, Superintendent Jeremy Williams said. But Gainesville has made efforts toward diversity and inclusion, Williams said.

“We conducted Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training with our Board and Cabinet,” Williams wrote in a statement. “We reviewed the demographics of our students and employees, discipline referrals and participation in programs (gifted and special education). The trainings were focused on awareness and if our procedures are creating inequities.”

Willie Mitchell, who has been on the Gainesville Board of Education for 30 years, said he has not seen teaching of American history evolve significantly during his tenure to include more African American history, as well as including other diverse perspectives. 

"What you get a lot of in the school system is just generic stuff that really doesn’t give you a great understanding of the struggles and the successes of our race,” said Mitchell, who is Black. 

“Equal opportunity is not where it should be in all areas.”

Mitchell said he has not had time to research Critical Race Theory fully yet, but he said recent debates over whether teachers ought to talk about sensitive topics and current events in the classroom read to him as allowing teachers to ignore difficult but important issues.

“I can understand not forcing people to do anything, but to me if it’s a requirement to teach American history, how are you going to leave some of it out?” Mitchell said.

He said he has not mentioned increasing study of Black history to the board, but that he has informed the board about the lack of opportunity and inequity that he sees among students and people of different races.

“When we look at the state of race relations in America and everything, it seems like a majority of the people would rather keep the tone down or keep it quiet,” Mitchell said. “I really don’t know the motive behind it.”