Critical race theory is not being taught in Bedford County Public Schools, division officials said Thursday.
The Bedford County School Board met Thursday night and heard an update regarding recent changes to the state history curriculum. School administrators addressed concerns that critical race theory — a term for an academic framework that examines how policies and the law perpetuate systemic racism, and which has drawn backlash among conservatives in Virginia — is in, or coming, to Bedford County Public Schools.
Karen Woodford, chief learning officer for the school division, denied that claim.
“Critical race theory is not an academic curriculum and it is not being taught through any of the updated Virginia history [standards of learning],” Woodford said. “Many have cited that critical race theory is the basis for all work with adults and students that is being done with inclusion and diversity, which is not true. What the state history SOLs and the education leaders at the Virginia Department of Education and we in Bedford County Schools are promoting is culturally responsive teaching and practices.”
Culturally responsive teaching, she said, “engages learners by respecting their cultural integrity,” which includes their individual race, gender, class, religion, ethnicity, region and family.
“Culturally responsive teaching — CRT — attempts to bridge the gap between teachers and students by helping the teacher understand the cultural nuisances that shape a student,” Woodford said.
Woodford shared with the board recent updates to kindergarten through 12th grade history curriculum that have been implemented by the Virginia Department of Education. Woodford said the state plans to release and require cultural competency training for teachers and administrators in the spring of 2022.
Changes to the state’s history curriculum, she said, came about as a result of the Virginia Commission on African American History Education, which was commissioned in 2019. These edits, she said, create a more inclusive language, cover diverse backgrounds and highlight African American landmarks and historical figures, and will be implemented in the fall.
One example of a change to the curriculum, she said, was adding lessons about Juneteenth, the federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery, to the kindergarten history curriculum.
This fall, the division will be offering an elective course on African American history, which Woodford said has been in the division’s program of studies for more than a decade but its curriculum has been revised. Woodford said the course surveys African American history and focuses on African American figures that are not typically recognized for their contributions to the story of Virginia and America.
Some school board members voiced their concerns regarding the changes to curriculum. Martin Leamy, District 7 school board member, said he is “very concerned” about the African American history course.
“In my humble opinion, in its current form, this course map is simply state-sponsored, progressive political activism and indoctrination, and it’s camouflaged as a history elective,” Leamy said.
Woodford stressed the course is being offered as an elective and is not required for students to graduate, and its curriculum and resources are heavily influenced by Bedford County Public Schools teachers and administrators. Woodford added “any resources that promote critical race theory would not be something that we would purchase and put into classrooms.”
More than 50 parents, students and community members attended Thursday’s school board meeting, and some expressed concerns regarding the possibility of critical race theory being taught in the division.
U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-5th, attended and spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
“You are right to be concerned,” he told parents and community members attending.
“We are losing across the country in our school systems in terms of what our children are being taught and the indoctrination that is happening, and I am fighting that aggressively in Washington, D.C., as a person who sits on the education and labor committee,” Good said, referring to a committee in the House of Representatives.
Good said Thursday night was the “first step” in showing officials and administrators in the school division that parents are engaged and want to hold the division accountable for what is taught in the schools. He challenged the Bedford County community to “push back against the state when the state is wrong.”
Bedford resident David Beauregard said critical race theory is “anti-American” and “anti-community.”
“The supposed rights for some at the expense and detriment of the rights of the masses contradicts the equity and equality that this board, this state and these ideologies seek to espouse,” he said.
Jason Johnson, chair of the school board, said division leaders and the school board will closely monitor resources and content to ensure critical race theory is not making its way into classrooms.