The crowd grew restless over the presentation about critical race theory, leading officials to ask attendees multiple times to respect meeting protocol.
At one point the disruptions led to a recess in the Wednesday meeting of the Nevada Joint Union High School District Board of Trustees.
The presentation from Judy Wood and Jonathan Kors, representing a group called “Protecting American Ideals,” led to no vote by the board. Instead, board trustees and attendees voiced their opinion to the subject that’s dominated school board meetings across the country in recent weeks.
In their 15-minute presentation, Wood and Kors discussed their views against educational concepts and written materials they believe are connected to critical race theory in schools.
Members of the public gathered in Nevada Union High School’s wrestling gym for the board’s return to in-person attendance.
District Superintendent Brett McFadden stated at the meeting that the board had received a number of written public comments in advance, and that roughly 131 of these were in opposition to the upcoming presentation or in support of the district’s work in areas like equity and inclusivity, while four written public comments were in support of the presentation.
The board had also received a number of requests Wednesday evening to give public comment following the presentation, and decided to cap the public comment portion at 30 minutes.
PRESENTATION AND PUBLIC COMMENT
Wood introduced herself Wednesday as a local resident of about 20 years, and said the “Protecting American Ideals” group had formed around three months ago.
“The goals of our group were to rid the Nevada County schools of critical race theory, and to help promote in our schools an honest, patriotic view of America that respects our history, our ideals, our rights, and the God-given dignity of every individual,” said Wood.
Wood stated in her presentation that critical race theory goes by many names, presenting a list which included terms such as “equity,” “culturally responsive teaching,” “social and emotional learning,” and “diversity.”
She went on to argue that certain practices — for example, teachers connecting lessons to social justice by looking out for gender stereotypes in mathematical word problems, or having mathematical concepts applied to topics like inequality — are not “teaching CRT,” but that its “ideas and ideologies” had been embedded.
Taking over the presentation, Kors expressed his disapproval of instances he described as written examples “wherein the ideology of CRT and the language of CRT is embedded.”
These included materials such as McFadden’s “Superintendent’s Message” in June 2020 regarding racism in the community and the district’s roles and responsibilities, his message earlier this year regarding the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, and the district board policy that it “shall develop and implement policies and strategies to promote equity in district programs.”
Kors said his group had gathered over 500 signatures from local residents.
McFadden called forward public commenters who had been chosen using the order in which people submitted their requests to speak. Two people expressed sentiments aligned with the “Protecting American Ideals” presentation, while 11 expressed viewpoints disagreeing with it.
Starting the board discussion, student Trustee Anthony Pritchett expressed his disapproval of the presentation, stating that it was his impression the presenting group opposed all actions pertaining to anti-racism and equity.
The most “vulgar” aspect of the presentation, he said, was its statements against equity, which he described as an essential tool in amending past wrongs.
“The past has already happened,” said Pritchett. “It is up to us in the present, in the now, to ensure that those mistakes are corrected.”
Following Pritchett, as the board attempted to move on to Trustee DuWaine Ganskie, some in attendance were shouting and ignored requests to return to order, prompting board President Jamie Reeves to call a recess.
Once the meeting resumed, Ganskie stated his belief that people can protect American ideals at the same time that they promote equity, diversity and inclusion. No one group can define American ideals, he added.
“However, people want to define things for their own political agenda, equity is just treating people fairly,” he said. “That’s all we want to do here. We want our kids to have a fair and equitable education. We want to give them every opportunity to achieve at their highest level.”
Trustee James Hinman offered as a lesson to any students in attendance that, as they had seen during the meeting, “democracy is messy.” He emphasized the importance of compromise, and added that people can make a difference with regards to racism.
“And at (Nevada Union), all I can say is, while I’m here, and the rest of these guys, we’re going to do everything we can to empower every student as much as we can,” said Hinman.
After saying that disrupting a school board meeting is considered a misdemeanor, Trustee Jim Drew said he knew that the district task force on racism and bias was working hard.
“I applaud you for your work, thank you,” said Drew. “And, I applaud the other group for sharing information also.”
Board Vice President Pat Seeley said that, being in a democracy, “when people want to come and talk to us about their First Amendment rights, that is their right to do that — we allow them to do that, we don’t not listen to people that don’t believe in what we believe in.”
On the topic of critical race theory, she added, “This is really getting to be a national issue right now, so maybe it’s something we need to know about and make sure that either we watch it, we learn about it, and we make sure that we don’t have a problem with it.”
Reeves gave the final trustee response on this topic, stating her support of the expansion of ethnic studies in the district and trust in the education professionals who would be making the associated curriculum decisions.
“I do want to thank our community for the outpouring of support for diversity initiatives and our students, in my heart I believe, will become better citizens because of it,” she said.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org