Tue, Jan 11, 2022 8:07 PM
By Scott McClallen | The Center Square, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – School was out, but residents packed the North Farmington High School parking lot Tuesday night to protest the school's 21-day equity challenge that included “white privilege checklists” and asked student participants to “join a BLM or affiliated protest.”
Tuesday night's protest was followed by a school board meeting where concerned residents spoke out about curriculum that includes Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
Since 2020, some classrooms have facilitated cultural arguments over equity and diversity and debated how history should be taught. The Tuesday meeting displayed a deep divide of opinion among parents that immediately apparent upon entering the school's auditorium. For example, the auditorium was divided into masked and non-masked sections. One individual sported a shirt that read: “We do NOT CO-PARENT with the Government.”
Parents were protesting a “21-Day Equity Challenge” held by the Farmington Public School District last fall. In addition to “white privilege checklists,” the challenge asked participants to “join a BLM or affiliated protest” to bail out arrested protesters and rioters, and included a list of “microaggressions to avoid,” such as calling America “the land of opportunity.”
Before the school board meeting, about 60 people huddled together in freezing temperatures for a brief news conference highlighting concerns of parents and entities about the teaching of CRT to school children.
Many held signs, with one reading: “Let me get this straight. You want to teach less reading, writing, and arithmetic so you can teach Critical Race Theory and DEI?”
Bjorn Olson is a father of four children in the Farmington High district who was concerned about the 21-day equity challenge.
“The 21-day equity challenge labeled my children based on their skin color,” he said during the news conference. “I believe the intent of the challenge was equality, but I think it did the opposite. I’m frustrated and think we can do a lot better for equality.”
In public comments, some people called for the 21-day challenge to return, while others called to abolish it.
Michigan Republican lawmakers have aimed to ban Michigan schools from teaching CRT, sparking pushback from some educators and Democrats who accuse the GOP of trying to “whitewash” history.
Democrats and media have claimed CRT isn’t taught in the state, despite in November Detroit Public Schools Community District General Superintendent Nikolai Vitti saying the 50,000-student district is teaching CRT.
“Our curriculum is deeply using critical race theory especially in social studies, but you’ll find it in English language arts and the other disciplines. … Students need to understand the truth of history … understand the history of this country, to better understand who they are and about the injustices that have occurred in this country,” Vitti said, Chalkbeat reported.
In a July 8 Mlive story titled “Critical Race Theory isn’t taught in Michigan schools, so why is it such a hot topic?,” the writer, without citing evidence, claims that “Critical race theory is most often taught in colleges and universities. It’s not currently being taught in K-12 schools anywhere in Michigan or the country.”
At the board meeting, Terri Weems, the Farmington Public Schools (FPS) Board of Education president, said she was “proud” and had “no plans” to stop the DEI program.
FPS Superintendent Chris Delgado said he supports the DEI program.
He wants to move the DEI program forward because "those words have meaning, acknowledging and celebrating the beautiful variety of cultures, religions, and abilities within our school community is diversity," he said.
FPS Board Secretary Angie Smith said DEI includes “hard topics” that “have to be brought up.”
During the protest, Debbie Kraulidis, a Moms for America vice president, said the 21-day challenge and teaching CRT are “racially dividing” and “anti-American.”
“Our schools have drastically lost their way, and they must get back to the mission of education,” Kraulidis said. “Not indoctrination.”
Katie Macfarland, a mother of children in the Detroit Public Schools system, said she showed up to protest because she found the 21-day challenge and CRT offensive and divisive.
“We need to give racism the death it truly deserves and stop CRT and teach our kids the right values and the right history and that we do live in the greatest country in the world,” Macfarland told The Center Square in an interview.
However, Macfarland says there is a middle line between teaching historical mistakes and teaching CRT.
“Real history is flawed. Sure," Macfarland said. "But we were not founded on slavery. We were founded on the Declaration of Independence.”