An all-white school board in Missouri voted Thursday to remove Black History and Black Literature courses that had been taught at the Francis Howell School District since 2021.
The board voted 5-2 to remove the electives which had more than 100 students enrolled in the Fall semester, according to AP News.
“I am really upset by their bad decision. We will make national news with this one,” an angry parent told KSDK.
Francis Howell is located in a predominantly white suburban area of St. Louis and has 16,647 students, 7.7 percent of whom are Black. The courses were first offered after students of color at the school said that they had experienced discrimination at the school district.
“Our students really wanted these electives. Our families really wanted them and our teachers really wanted them. It’s important. It’s been great,” Harry Harris, a Black father and former school board candidate whose son is a student in the school district, told KSDK.
The curriculum for the courses had been partially based on the Learning for Justice project from the Southern Poverty Law Center and created in consultation with LaGarrett King, a former director of the Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education at the University of Missouri.
“You’ve certainly taught me to not underestimate how low you will go to show your disdain toward the Black and brown communities’ experiences and existence,” Harris told the Board.
The five board members who voted to drop the elective Black history and literature courses are backed by the conservative political action committee (PAC) Francis Howell Families, AP News reported. The PAC had heavily criticized the Black history and literature courses, and pushed the false claim that the electives included the teaching of critical race theory (CRT). However, CRT is a legal theory that is not taught in K-12 schools.
“The attack [on CRT] is not merely a culture war, but rather a mode of leveraging control of public institutions,” Elias Rodriques and Clinton Williamson wrote for Truthout in 2021. “Just as right-wing attacks on ‘cancel culture’ purport to be in defense of ‘free speech’ but actually aim to control who can say what, so too do these bills purport to end racism and sexism, but in reality, hope to advance a racist and sexist agenda.”
In July, the same conservative board revoked an anti-racism resolution that had been adopted after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. The anti-racism resolution pledged to “speak firmly against any racism, discrimination, and senseless violence against people regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability.” The pledge has since been removed from school buildings in the district.
Zebrina Looney, the St. Charles County NAACP President said at that time that the revocation of the anti-racism resolution “sets a precedent for what’s to come.”
In 2021, the Francis Howell Families, the conservative PAC which backed five school board members, had described the anti-racism pledge as “woke activism” and created its own resolution opposing “all acts of racial discrimination, including the act of promoting tenets of the racially-divisive Critical Race Theory, labels of white privilege, enforced equity of outcomes, identity politics, intersectionalism, and Marxism,” according to AP News.
According to a Quinnipiac University national 2022 poll of adults, only 27 percent of Americans say they were adequately taught about the role of Black Americans in American history courses in school. A recent poll from the Black Education Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University found that 85 percent of voters believe public school students should learn about the history of racism and slavery in the US and how it continues to affect Americans today. Nonetheless, conservative lawmakers across the country have cracked down on the teaching of Black history and literature through the implementation of book bans and education bills that limit the teaching of material relating to race, sexuality and gender.
“I learned so many different things in that class that I never knew about, and I think a lot of people would not know unless they took that course,” Lauren Chance, a Francis Howell student said. “Not only did the course teach me a lot, it also built a community. I was in a class with people who had similar interests as me.”
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