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Brunswick County leaders tackle critical race theory, other “divisive” theories

Leaders vote on an update to the Employee Political Activities policy
Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 7:08 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Brunswick County Board of Education leaders voted in favor of the updated policy that addresses Employee Political Activities at a meeting Tuesday evening.

A unanimous vote means it is now policy and will take effect immediately.

Critical race theory (CRT) is a hot topic among parents and politicians alike. Some don’t want the theory in schools while others say children should learn about social studies through the eyes of someone with another perspective.

Critical race theory analyzes social, cultural and legal issues in relation to race and racism. It’s an idea that explains systemic racism, but not everyone is happy about it and Brunswick County school board members took notice. As a result, the Board of Education discussed an updated policy on employee political activity at tonight’s meeting.

The core of the policy is the same: employees can participate in political activity as long as it’s on their own time and using their own resources and as long as they don’t use their position to persuade students to support a particular party, candidate or issue. Board members like Gerald Benton don’t want the political beliefs of a particular teacher to be passed down to their students.

“I represent all of you, the whole citizenship of Brunswick County,” said Benton. “I’d like the schools to be a safe place for factual information to be conveyed to your child and you can teach your child what’s right and wrong yourself.”

In the updated policy brought before the Board at tonight’s meeting, it says the policy is meant to “ensure that social theories of any kind (i.e. Holocaust Denial Theory, 9/11 Theory, Critical Race Theory) are not presented to students unless approved by the Brunswick County Board of Education.”

A number of “divisive theories” were brought up at a Board of Commissioners meeting last month. Theories commissioners referenced include critical race theory, The 1619 Project and Action Civics. The agenda item referenced other public schools and counties in the state that are considering adopting the theories into school curricula.

The 1619 Project began as a New York Times exploration on how slavery shaped our nation and aims to re-frame how U.S. history is taught. Action Civics teaches kids how they can shape legislation through things like protests and demonstrations. Brunswick County Schools do not teach critical race or similar theories.

“Brunswick County is teaching factual history,” said Benton. “We are not indoctrinating your child. In fact, we insist upon both sides of every issue to be taught equally and represented in our social studies classes.”

WECT reached out to all the county commissioners and only Pat Sykes offered a statement: “As a Commissioner, I believe the inclusion of such theories is an intentional effort to indoctrinate children and others with a specific political ideology. This is a part of a far-left agenda to divide us on race, to victimize black students and to make white students feel guilty. They want to take God out of our country and tear down our Constitutional Republic and replace it with a socialist system. As a citizen of this great country, I will do what I can to protect and defend my God, the United States of America, North Carolina, and Brunswick County from this far-left movement.”

Supporters of critical race theory say not teaching these lessons only covers up the country’s racist past and doesn’t inform students on the role prejudice and discrimination played throughout U.S. history.

This was the updated policy’s first reading, but Benton said the second reading could be waived.

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