Community, activists react to Berkeley County School Board’s critical race theory decision

The new Berkeley County School Board made several controversial decisions at Tuesday night’s meeting, including a vote to ban critical race theory in district s
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 4:50 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2022 at 8:48 PM EST
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MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCSC) - The new Berkeley County School Board made several controversial decisions at Tuesday night’s meeting, including a vote to ban critical race theory in district schools.

The board voted 6-2 to ban the teaching of CRT.

“I believe it’s important that children know their history, and the history of the children sitting next to them,” Board Member Kathy Littleton said in the meeting. “But I think that we don’t need to add the emotional component or the guilt component to it.”

READ MORE: What is Critical Race Theory, and why is there so much controversy surrounding it?

A bill Republican state lawmakers introduced in 2021 to ban the curriculum defined critical race theory as tenets teaching that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.” The bill also stated CRT is teachings saying “individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin.”

In a Facebook post last year, outgoing South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said the CRT ideology “has no place in South Carolina Schools and classrooms.”

An article posted by the American Bar Association states CRT was introduced in the legal world in the 1970s and grew in the 1980s and 1990s.

“CRT transcends a Black/white racial binary and recognizes that racism has impacted the experiences of various people of color, including Latinx, Native Americans, and Asian Americans,” ABA author Janel George wrote. “CRT challenges white privilege and exposes deficit-informed research that ignores, and often omits, the scholarship of people of color.”

READ MORE: Berkeley Co. School Board bans critical race theory, votes on new committees after firing superintendent

After the Berkeley County School Board’s decision Tuesday night, some area activists are concerned the decision could make kids feel like they are not properly represented. Marcus McDonald, a community organizer for Pro-Truth SC, hopes the board will reconsider.

“Over 17,000 Black and Latino students who you serve, these are students that you serve, and you’re supposed to think the best of them, and you want the best for them. But if they don’t see themselves represented in this curriculum, they’re not even gonna be able to get past that learning loss we’ve been seeing across the country but specifically in this county,” McDonald said. “You want them to achieve, they must be seen in their curriculum and that’s what we’re seeking to do, not embed critical race theory, but just have them being seen in their textbooks, seen in their discussions.”

For Community Public Education Advocate Anjene Davis, he says he feels what’s really being attacked is the progress that’s been made with diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Critical race theory is not taught in any South Carolina public school. So the fear is not about critical race theory or the erasure of history, it is more so about the very ambiguous umbrella that’s being used by certain individuals on the right to go after programming and curriculum that they don’t deem is appropriate for public education,” Davis said.

About half of students in Berkeley County Schools are non-white, according to the South Carolina Department of Education.

Amarie Sawyer graduated from Cane Bay High School last year and was the president of the Black Student Union there. She said last night’s meeting disappointed her. Sawyer said, to her, critical race theory takes negative things in the past and examines how we can make things better.

“It really does help a lot of people get over that ignorance,” Sawyer said. “It helps people learn, and that’s what school is for and that’s what it’s needed for.”

New Berkeley County School Board Chair Mac McQuillin said in the meeting they should set forth a policy that provides guidelines for teachers about what critical race theory is and what can and cannot be taught.

Victoria Cowart, the chair of the Berkeley County Republican Party, released this statement about the decision:

The Berkeley County Republican Party wholeheartedly supports the Berkeley County School District Board transition and all subsequent actions that it undertook in its inaugural meeting. Further, we are heartened the voters saw fit to place these Board members in a position to enable them to achieve bold and great things. Tuesday was a superb step in the right direction.