Town Hall will be held to discuss alleged Critical Race Theory in Prince William Schools

UPDATED: Listening Town Hall on Critical Race Theory to be Held at Patriot High School

Town Hall hosted by conservative member of Prince William Racial & Social Justice Committee

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Charles ‘Mac’ Haddow, the Coles District member on the Prince William County Racial & Social Justice Committee will hold a listening session on Critical Race Theory and Culturally Responsive Teaching in Prince William County Schools, Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. at Patriot High School.

Haddow, who was appointed by Supervisors Yesli Vega-R, invited people to the Town Hall after discussing the two “CRTs” at the last RSJ Committee meeting on Sept. 23. 

Gainesville Commissioner Erica Tredinnick and Commissioner London Steverson of Brentsville will co-hosting the meeting.

“Is 'critical race theory’ a way of understanding how American racism has shaped public policy, or a divisive discourse that pits people of color against white people? Liberals and conservatives are in sharp disagreement,” begins a Education Weekly article ‘What is Critical Race Theory and Why is It Under Attack.” 

Prince William County Schools is not teaching Critical Race Theory, according to Superintendent Dr. LaTanya McDade, who publicly stated it is in fact a CRT is a graduate level course. This is something Loree Williams (Woodbridge), the school board representative on the RSJ Committee, reminded everyone of emphatically. 

“Let me again reiterate— because it is my position to do so, and because I represent the school division, — again, that Critical Race Theory is not being taught by our school. This has been echoed and been stated publicly by our superintendent,” Williams said. 

Williams said no Virginia public school has incorporated Critical Race Theory and it is not prescribed by the Virginia’s Superintendent of Schools nor Virginia’s Secretary of Education. 

UPDATE, Oct. 6 at 12:05 p.m.

"Loree Williams, the school board’s appointee to the Commission, and the School Board have stated that Critical Race Theory is not being taught in Prince William County Public Schools, and the Racial and Social Justice Commission respectively accept their position," said Shantell E. Rock, Chair of the Racial and Social Justice Commission, in a press release posted on the SJCC page.***

RSJC Press Release dated Oct. 4, 2021

Rock, as chair, is the official voice of the commission, according to its bylaws. 

Rock further told Bristow Beat meeting was unsanctioned and violated FOIA laws. More to follow in a subsequent article. 

Williams is a proponents of equity and inclusion but but maintains that is not the same as Critical Race Theory, not the same as embracing diversity.

However, conservatives have concerns that CRT is a liberal mindset that is nonetheless seeping into the curriculum, affecting how children of different races view each other. 

Haddow did not accept the issue as cut and dry as William's did, saying no one really knows if PWCS is teaching Critical Race Theory.

“The last person I’m going to go ask if you are teaching critical race theory, is, frankly, a school board member,” he said. 

Haddow said that they are being told, “no, not here,” but they are teaching Culturally Responsive Teaching, which uses the same terms and he believes that one is derived from the other. 

"I don't have any illusions that the school board and the people at the state board of education are not teaching CRT in the curriculum," he said. He knows there is no curriculum book issued that says "Critical Race Theory" but those concepts are transmitted via Culturally Responsive Teaching. 

Many Virginians see little difference between what is officially Critical Race Theory and what is the influence of it upon equity-driven curriculum. But Williams argued that there could be overlap in terminology without being the same thing. 

Williams said Culturally Responsive Teaching is important,  as Prince William Countyis the most diverse county in Virginia, and the 10th most diverse county in the nation. The majority of PWCS teachers are caucasian. 

She also said that culture encompasses different learners, those with different abilities, ethnicities, religions, sexual identities and genders. She noted there are more than two genders.

Haddow said there is so much confusion about who controls curriculum. He was told that it comes from the state. However, when the Virginia Department of Education presented controversial guidance on teaching 9/11 (such as not ussing the word "terrorist"), that was just considered guidance.

“It is utterly confusing to me. Were they required to do this or not?”

Some citizens felt their concerns were not being heard by the school board, which recently amended its  Citizen’s Time policy. The new policy, limits meeting times to one hour, with the first hour reserved for comments on the agenda only, and the second half hour for comments on agenda itmes or other topics gerane to the operations and policies of PWCS. 

"Therefore, if Critical Race Theory is not on the agenda for that night, citizens would have the opportunity to address it during the second half hour of the citizen comment period," said Diana Gulotta, Director of Communication Services for Prince William County Schools.*

According to Williams, the board limited speakers to agenda items while the school board was under emergency protocols due to COVID-19, but that has since espired. 

At the last school board meeting, on Sept. 22, the board suspended citizen's time at the last board meeting due to a rowdy crowd.

There are various accounts of who began the misconduct with the anti-CRT folks saying it has been misrepresented in the media. 

In a phone conversation, Tuesday, Haddow critiqued the school board's handling of the controversy.  "I think the problem has been there has been an unwillingness to listen to people." 

He said that when the commission was formed, they were told they should hold listening meetings, so that it what he is doing. He thinks it is an appropriate topic for the RSJC to handle, even though there is now a disagreement about that among commissioners.

The meeting is open to any county resident or employees, and Haddow said that everyone should feel comfortable no matter their point of view. He wants everyone to listen respectfully. 

Haddow said they had trouble getting the equipment to allow them to live broadcast it, but are considering having another virtual meeting in the future. 

Williams said she will attend the meeting.** She said that parents with concerns should go talk to their teachers. Curriculum is set at the state level but carried out at the teacher level, she explained. 

***This article has been most recently updated, Oct. 6, 12:08 p.m. to include the press release from Chair Shantell Rock as posted on the RSJC webpage. 

Article has been updated at 10:07 p.m., due to a correction and 5:07 p.m. after an interview with Mac Haddow.

*This was issued as a correction from PWCS to say that the new rules does not disallow Critical Race Theory to be discussed during Citizen's Time. 

** Williams said she wouldn't speak at the meeting since it violated FOIA laws. Williams did not speak at the meeting. 

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