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Education

Union County Schools Now Require Employees To Promote Concepts Related To Racism And Sexism

The Union County school board Tuesday revised its employee code of ethics to add language related to the national debate over critical race theory.

The new section requires employees to "promote" eight concepts related to race and sex, such as "no individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex."

Board Chair Melissa Merrell says the impetus came because "culturally responsive teaching, critical race theory ... there was so much flying around this summer."

In March the North Carolina House passed House Bill 324, designed to constrain teachers from approaches that some say divide students and encourage a grim view of American history. Critics say such bills, which have been introduced across the country, are designed to protect white people’s feelings and keep educators from discussing systemic racism and sexism.

Last week a revised version of that bill cleared the Senate on party lines, with the Republican majority voting for it. It has now gone to Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, for a signature or veto.

The Union school board pulled its language from the earlier version, which laid out eight concepts that educators would not be allowed to promote. But Merrell said Vice Chair Kathy Heintel thought the tone was too negative, so the language was flipped. For instance, the House bill says educators shall not promote "the belief that the United States is a meritocracy is racist or sexist or was created by members of a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex."

The Union County policy says employees shall promote "the belief that the United States is a meritocracy is not an inherently racist or sexist belief, or that the United States was not created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex."

Merrell says the intent is the same.

"We are trying to be very positive that the United States is not an oppressor and that every person is created equally," she said Wednesday.

The ethics policy also echoes the language defining "promotion." Where the state bill says educators shall not compel students or teachers to profess belief in the concepts that are banned, the Union County policy says employees shall compel students and teachers to profess belief in the concepts the policy endorses.

Merrell said Wednesday it will be up to administrators to decide how to apply that policy.

"How I see this playing out is that parents or students who feel like they're being asked to do an assignment that either the parent doesn't believe in or the child doesn't feel comfortable, that they might would report this to the principal or to human resources," she said.

Spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte said Wednesday the administration was not prepared to discuss how it would apply the policy.