Connecticut School Board Restores ‘Columbus Day’ After Criticism over Critical Race Theory

TO GO WITH STORY by Karin ZEITVOGEL, Lifestyle-US-holiday-Columbus A 06 October 2007 photo shows the statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle in front of Union Station in Washington, DC. The statue was dedicated to Columbus 08 June 1912. Every year since 1934, people in the United States have celebrated …
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The board of education in Stonington, Connecticut, voted Thursday to reverse its decision to rename Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples Day,” after substantial criticism related to the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the district.

The Stonington school board voted 3-2 to reinstate the name Columbus Day to the school calendar after some board members argued a public hearing should be held prior to changing the name of a holiday, reported the Day.

At the board’s meeting in June, Superintendent Van Riley announced changes to the 2021-2022 school calendar, including that the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee had requested that Columbus Day now be called Indigenous Peoples Day.

Opponents criticized the change, claiming the school district is teaching CRT.

Board members Heidi Simmons, Gordon Lord, and Chairman Frank Todisco voted to return the holiday’s name to Columbus Day, while members Farouk Rajab and Jack Morehouse voted to keep Indigenous Peoples Day.

At that meeting in June, Simmons said the board should not consider changing the name of a holiday without a public hearing.

“We need more community input before we make that call,” Lord agreed, according to the Day.

During the public comment period Thursday, retired teacher Connie Szymonik of Mystic said the district should return to Columbus Day:

I do not believe in deconstructing history. I believe in history. I don’t believe that we should be wiping the name Columbus off the calendar. We can’t impose our present time on previous times. Students should not be made to feel guilty for what happened in 1492.

Szymonik added she supports the teaching of “true, factual history” and that “canceling” Columbus Day is a sign that Stonington is teaching CRT because such a change is consistent with the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Critical Race Theory is a Marxist philosophy that embraces the concept that all social and cultural issues should be viewed through the lens of race.

Like many school districts that have been confronted by parents and community members, Stonington Public Schools released a statement in which it denied the district is teaching concepts associated with CRT.

The statement began:

In July of 2020, the Stonington Public School’s Leadership Team inspired by our students, alumni, and community members published its Call to Action. Over the course of the past year, administrators and teachers have engaged in professional learning and conversations about race and racism to advance the district towards becoming an anti-racist, anti-biased learning environment. The leadership again states its commitment to this work and makes this statement boldly, that our schools are not the place for hatred, prejudice, and bigotry.

Specifically, the Call to Action states the leaders of Stonington Public Schools “acknowledge racism is real, pervasive, and persistent in our world, our state, and our town.”

The Call to Action continues:

It may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but to say otherwise would be untruthful. We also acknowledge that the trauma created by systemic racism is real. Recognizing these truths, we stand ready to take concrete and measurable steps to address it within our school system. We hear your voices, and we will take action.

The district announced its leaders would be participating in “meaningful conversations with trained facilitators about implicit biases,” with the plan to lead similar conversations in the schools “to bring new understanding and ownership of our unconscious contributions to the injustices suffered by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) inside and outside of our schools.”

The district’s Call to Action then states:

Next, shifts in our curriculum design process, program offerings, and pedagogical style of instruction will deliberately address the historical and current inequities experienced by BlPOC.

The change in the curriculum design process will develop new ways of actively engaging with diverse stakeholders to ensure our curriculum is one that is inclusive and equitable.

While the school system is a critical component of the action needed by the whole community to address systemic racism, we cannot be the sole actor. We are committed to being a significant part of this community action, and we will not wait for others to take the initiative.

We start now.

Black Lives Matter.

Stonington school leaders denied however, they are teaching Critical Race Theory:

Claims have arisen about our schools teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT), a college- level theoretic course developed in the 1970s. These claims are false. Stonington Public Schools posts its Board approved, standards-based curricula on its website. The curricula have been publicly available on the website for more than four years and the district is committed to continuing this transparent process. In addition, the school system is proud of its work in regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion. These efforts all align with The Connecticut State Board of Education’s Position Statement on Culturally Responsive Education.

Last week Szymonik said she was “very concerned” with CRT’s “infiltration in a hidden and implanted way in our very beautiful Connecticut town of Stonington,” which lies in the southeastern region of the state.

She added, according to the Day, CRT could easily become part of the local curriculum through national and state standards, “and we may not even know it.”

Another man who did not provide his name also said CRT is often hidden or disguised.

“You can call it something else, like constitutional studies,” he said. “They call it whatever they want. This stuff is being taught … and it’s based on errors.”

United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), a national parents’ organization that grew out of the battle against the Common Core State Standards, called for states to ban Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools.

CRT, USPIE said, seeks to “make some children feel guilt and anguish — not because of anything they have done, but solely based on the color of their skin.”

“THIS is racism,” USPIE emphasized, adding that when states pass laws banning CRT and “action civics,” parents will then have grounds to demand that schools eliminate all discrimination, as well as to form a foundation for litigation, if needed.

“USPIE believes Critical Race Theory is in fact child abuse,” the group asserted. “Teaching children they are oppressors or victims based on their skin color, teaching children to judge others based on the color of their skin, teaching children they cannot succeed in America because of the color of their skin is just plain wrong.”

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