Educational Equity: Minimizing the CRT Backlash

Ensuring students are educated in an equitable matter is a critical duty of schools and the principals that lead them. School leaders can take these steps to minimize disruption and keep the focus on students.

Topics: Equity and Diversity

Making sure students are educated in an equitable matter is a critical duty of schools and the principals that lead them. In a recent NAESP Principal Podcast episode, hosts Adam Welcome and Dr. Rachael George talked with Oregon assistant principal and school board member (in a different district) David Jaimes to discuss the importance of equity and what it should mean for principals.

“I think one of the main reasons we’re seeing all of those tumultuous board meetings is because the board members don’t understand the fact that we’re not teaching critical race theory in our classrooms,” said Jaimes in the episode. “We are for equity. Equity means not giving everybody the same thing but instead giving them the tools they need to have equitable outcomes.”

How to Minimize the CRT Backlash

What Jaimes is seeing in his school district and as a school board member in another district has become a common occurrence in schools across the country. The primary falsehood being spread is that schools are teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT), an advanced academic concept taught in some law schools and colleges to explain persistent, stark racial inequities. The term CRT is being distorted and misused. Inaccurate claims about what is being taught are causing parents to pack school board meetings and, armed with talking points shared on social media, push for resolutions to restrict teaching, curricula, or professional development. Several states have even passed laws banning classroom discussion of “divisive concepts” such as racism and levying steep penalties on districts or educators that do not comply.

A new brief from the Learn From History Coalition, of which NAESP is a founding member, provides effective immediate steps school leaders can take to minimize distraction and disruption and keep the focus on your students and what they need.

  1. Release a statement to the community as soon as possible and convene stakeholders and draft a joint statement. Include in the statement why you are communicating, state that your school doesn’t teach CRT, emphasize that student wellbeing and belonging is essential to academic achievement, and explain what is being taught. Then widely disseminate the statement, including via email, on your website and social media, and during school board meetings.
  2. Be prepared by establishing a response team and plan. Principals should communicate with school staff about the possibility of harassment or complaints and how to respond, maintain open systems of communication with staff and parents, and establish procedures for responding to inquiries about curriculum and instruction. Be sure to review relevant curricula, equity initiatives, and professional learning that might be the target of misinformation and make publicly available short summaries of each, and closely monitor social media and intervene quickly to correct misinformation.
  3. Reinforce the district’s mission, goals, values, and efforts to equip students to succeed in diverse workplaces, thrive in a diverse society, and create a better future. Make sure your mission statement and values are prominent on the school website and social media, post them at the entrance of your school building, and put them in every system-wide communication. Highlights efforts to educate students, either by educators or by students themselves, to oppose racism and recognize and respect the humanity of every person.

This NAESP Principal Podcast episode covers explaining the “why” of equity, tips for fostering educational equity, stakeholder engagement and building trust, how to have difficult conversations. Listen now!