Cobb County school board bans teaching critical race theory

Rev, Deborah Bennett of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Marietta finish her sign while holding her place in line to speak before a Cobb County of Education board meeting begins.  Teachers, parents and local residents gather to voice their opinions on critical race theory and what Cobb County teaching and the reviews initiated by the school board Thursday, June 10, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Rev, Deborah Bennett of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Marietta finish her sign while holding her place in line to speak before a Cobb County of Education board meeting begins. Teachers, parents and local residents gather to voice their opinions on critical race theory and what Cobb County teaching and the reviews initiated by the school board Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The Cobb County School Board is the second in metro Atlanta to ban an academic concept usually reserved for college classrooms from being taught to its students.

A divided board voted Thursday to ban teaching critical race theory and The New York Times’ 1619 Project in its schools. Its decision comes weeks after its neighbor to the north, Cherokee County, approved a similar resolution.

Cobb’s resolution, which was approved during its work session, was introduced by board Chairman Randy Scamihorn, who said he brought up the topic because educators allegedly said on social media they were using part of the theory in their classroom discussions.

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He said critical race theory is a Marxist concept that pits one group of people against another.

“It’s revisionist history and history should be thorough,” Scamihorn said.

The board’s four Republicans all voted in favor of the resolution while the three Democrats abstained from the vote.

Critical race theory seeks to highlight how racism influences all aspects of society and how past systemic inequities continue to shape policies. It’s become a flashpoint for conservatives who say it is influencing what is being taught in grade schools.

Waiting for his turn to speak, upcoming 6th grader Alex Judge III, is consoled by his mother Laura Judge, right, after he was verbally attacked by adults protesting critical race theory before a Cobb County of Education board meeting begins. Teachers, parents and local residents gather to voice their opinions on critical race theory and what Cobb County teaches and the reviews initiated by the school board Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Waiting for his turn to speak, upcoming 6th grader Alex Judge III, is consoled by his mother Laura Judge, right, after he was verbally attacked by adults protesting critical race theory before a Cobb County of Education board meeting begins. Teachers, parents and local residents gather to voice their opinions on critical race theory and what Cobb County teaches and the reviews initiated by the school board Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The 1619 project reframes the founding of America to when the first enslaved African reached the shores what would become the United States.

Board member Leroy “Tre” Hutchins said he was wary of approving a resolution on topics that board members could not define. He also said the resolution could lead to the district ending needed social and emotional learning programs -- which critics have labeled as CRT-based.

“We are now very dangerously getting ready to put something in place that will limit the responsiveness our teachers... to meet the needs of all children here in Cobb County,” he said.

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Dozens of parents gathered Thursday outside the school district’s offices to rally against the board’s resolution, calling on the district to include discussions about slavery and racism in classroom lessons. A few people like Pamela Reardon of East Cobb, however, say critical race theory teaches white children that they are racist.

Cobb resident Janet Arnold Savage rejected that argument, adding the board’s approval of the resolution amounts to “suppressing the truth.”

“There’s a segment of this community and the country at large that feels that if you tell the truth about who we are, then you’re anti-American,” she said. “You have family members you don’t agree with, but you have to tell the truth.”

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Board member Charisse Davis said critical race theory is not being taught in Cobb schools and “the time it’s taking away from real conversations about real issues is deeply troubling to say the least.”

Board member David Chastain said he voted in favor of the resolution so the district can put the topic aside and focus on things that are important to students.

“I think this is an adult issue,” he said. “I don’t think this is a kids’ issue.”

The approval of the resolution is consistent with the school board’s recent actions, said board member Jaha Howard. He also said Thursday’s vote differs from the board’s decision in 2019 to remove school board member comments from meeting agendas because they were getting “political.”

“This is a sad day for our district and this is clearly a coddling and pampering of white supremacist ideology,” he said.

Before a Cobb County of Education board meeting begins, Dawn Mann, far left, debates with Leroy Emkin, far right.  Teachers, parents and local residents gather to voice their opinions on critical race theory and what Cobb County teaching and the reviews initiated by the school board Thursday, June 10, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Before a Cobb County of Education board meeting begins, Dawn Mann, far left, debates with Leroy Emkin, far right. Teachers, parents and local residents gather to voice their opinions on critical race theory and what Cobb County teaching and the reviews initiated by the school board Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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