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Newton County superintendent remains neutral amid critical race theory controversy
Says district remains focused on meeting students’ needs, sticking to state standards
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COVINGTON, Ga. — As more and more organizations come out in support or opposition of critical race theory being taught in schools, Newton County Schools Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey says her district would stick to its strategic plan based on state-mandated academic standards.

Critical race theory, which has received much national attention in recent weeks, was first defined in 1994 as “a collection of critical stances against the existing legal order from a race-based point of view,” by Roy L. Brooks of the University of San Diego. Richard Delgado, co-founder of the theory, defined it in 2017 as “a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism and power.”

In a letter to the editor, The American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and PEN America provided a joint statement in “firm opposition” of the legislation introduced in nearly two dozen states across the U.S. to oppose it.

“These efforts have taken varied shape in at least 20 states; but often the legislation aims to prohibit or impede the teaching and education of students concerning what are termed ‘divisive concepts,’” the letter stated in part. “These divisive concepts as defined in numerous bills are a litany of vague and indefinite buzzwords and phrases including, for example, 'that any individual should feel or be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological or emotional distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.’

“Knowledge of the past exists to serve the needs of the living,” another portion of the letter stated. “In the current context, this includes an honest reckoning with all aspects of that past. Americans of all ages deserve nothing less than a free and open exchange about history and the forces that shape our world today, an exchange that should take place inside the classroom as well as in the public realm generally. To ban the tools that enable those discussions is to deprive us all of the tools necessary for citizenship in the 21st century. A white-washed view of history cannot change what happened in the past. A free and open society depends on the unrestricted pursuit and dissemination of knowledge.”

The letter was co-signed by several other organizations, which included the likes of ACPA-College Student Educators International, Coalition of Urban & Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Immigration Ethnic History Society, National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and National Women's Studies Association. As of Monday, June 21, there were a total 110 organizations signed on to back the statement. The complete statement of opposition and list of co-signing organizations may be read in full here.

The Georgia Chapter of No Left Turn Education released a statement opposing the teaching of critical race theory.

In a report by The Washington Post, the American Civil Liberties Union called attempts to ban CRT “attempts to silence teachers and students and impose a version of American history ‘that erases the legacy of discrimination and lived experiences of Black and Brown people.’”

“Our country needs to acknowledge its history of systemic racism and reckon with present day impacts of racial discrimination — this includes being able to teach and talk about these concepts in our schools,” the organization stated.

According to a national report dated June 11, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho and Oklahoma were the only states to pass legislation banning the teaching of CRT as other states continue contemplating. 

The Georgia State Board of Education passed a resolution June 3 to declare the U.S. “is not a racist country, and that the state of Georgia is not a racist state.” The resolution wasn’t a clearly defined ban on the teaching of critical race theory; however, it did serve as an endorsement of Gov. Brian Kemp’s opposing stance on the matter.

In response to the recent controversy, Fuhrey neither spoke in opposition nor support of the teaching of CRT. Rather, she said Newton County Schools would simply “meet the needs of all students and fully implement the Georgia Standards of Excellence.”

“The Newton County School System team is committed to working diligently to meet the needs of all students and fully implement the Georgia Standards of Excellence, which may be found on the Georgia Department of Education website,” she said in a statement to The Covington News. “The Newton County School System’s vision is that all students will be well-rounded and prepared for the future. To achieve our vision, we are laser-focused on actualizing our mission of providing educational excellence for all students. The school systems’ strategic plan, which was developed in partnership with students, parents, business and industry leaders, community leaders, and school system staff, provides the framework and direction for all of our efforts.”

The district’s five-year strategic plan, which is dated 2018-2023, may be viewed here.

Fuhrey did not disclose if the district’s board of education members or administration had discussed the teaching of critical race theory, or if there were plans to have a public discussion on the issue in the future.

Board Chairwoman Abigail Coggin declined to comment on the issue.

The Newton County Schools Board of Education meets Tuesday, June 22, at 7 p.m., located at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington. The meeting may be viewed via Youtube.