Sat. May 21st, 2022

She says it was another example of a racist incident at Park Hill South High School in the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri.

“She was very sad. My daughter is Ethiopian,” Stutterheim told CNN this week.

Her daughter has encountered racism on her own, Stutterheim says, and “the more she talked about this, the more upset she became.”

Stutterheim did what any concerned parent would do and contacted the school to find out what happened.

What she found out was that a scenario that became more and more familiar unfolded at her child’s school. Across the United States, there are two diametrically opposed conversations about race taking place at the same time. In one, some white parents tell school leaders that lessons about race make white students feel bad. And in the second, there is the racism that actually happens in schools.

District leaders condemned the petition, and Jeanette Cowherd, Park Hills’ superintendent, issued a video message days after Stutterheim began asking questions.

“In the future, we have two options. We can respond, or we can respond. We choose to respond, to create a long-term solution that best meets the needs of our students, our staff, our families and our communities.”

Dr.  Jeanette Cowherd
Part of this answer is the district’s search for an expert advisor on race and inclusion. Yet many white parents across the United States have pushed back against these efforts, confusing it with the debate over what critical race theory is and is not.

Park Hill is no different.

At a recent school board meeting, Sally Roller reiterated an opinion that many white parents share.

“I want to tackle critical race theory, sometimes called culturally responsive teaching. History is what it is, whether we like it or not, and should not be rewritten,” she said. “I fear this would lead to more division and racism by getting others to be seen by skin color rather than the person’s other individual personal qualities.”

Critical race theory is not taught in the K-12 curriculum.

A national debate

Nicole Price is the CEO of Lively Paradox Professional Training and Coaching. She has been employed at schools throughout Missouri and Kansas. She says she generally gets a phone call after something racist happens. White school leaders are often in shock.

“‘Am I surprised?’ That’s the question I get the most, “she told CNN.

She said she was disappointed but never surprised.

“I spend my life trying to make sure education is at the forefront because that’s how we know we can help address some of this.”

Nicole Price

These days, Price’s job is more challenging than ever. After a Missouri school district hired her to lead a session, the school board received threats, she says.

She had a driver and asked for extra security. Price was going to school to give a keynote presentation on “Radical Empathy”.

As Republican lawmakers across the United States have fueled the debate over critical race theory and the inclusive curriculum, Democratic lawmakers like Prime Minister Cindy Holscher are pushing back in Kansas.

State Senator Cindy Holscher

“I think the (racist) incidents have increased and I say that because of what I hear from my children. That the environment is a little more tense in our schools. There is more hatred out there over the last couple of years. “

This school district in Kansas City is not the only one struggling with how to talk about race and racism.

In Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law this summer that strictly dictated what teachers can tell students about race and America.

“We have banned critical race theory and any curriculum or education that teaches that the United States or Iowa is fundamentally racist or sexist,” Reynolds said.

Tennessee also has a new law banning history lessons that can make students feel “uncomfortable” because of their race. Still, the sheriff’s deputy in the suburb of Nashville was summoned in August after a white football player threatened a black player on social media while wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood.

An increase in incidents

Holscher, who lives in Overland Park, says fears of critical race theory get in the way of schools dealing with other incidents after a photo of racist homecoming proposals surfaced at a nearby high school in Olathe, Kansas.

The school condemned the picture, but three weeks before, a father condemned efforts to expand racial education in Olathe schools.

“I’m here to say I’m against DEI, critical race theory or its derivatives being instructed, indoctrinated or even hinted at in the school district,” John Highfill said at a board meeting at Olathe Public School last month.

“Every piece of this propaganda that will reveal itself in the false doctrines of white fragility, white rage, white privilege and the like is just that. False.”

Holscher has in the last few months received emails from white parents complaining that they are worried that their children will be taught to hate their white skin.

But Holscher says “we do not have CRT in our schools. Secondly, it is not at all what happens as much as any kind of teaching in teaching children that, in order not to like their white skin, it just does not happen. . “

Parents like Julie Stutterheim feel that her peers need to wake up to the reality of what’s really going on in schools.

“I saw my white daughter, my older daughter, grow up and not experience the things my younger daughter has to experience. So it’s been really hard to see.”

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