Garfield Re-2 district residents speak out against sexual education, critical race theory and mask requirements
An assortment of public comments addressing concerns over issues like school curriculum or whether the district will require students to wear maks to start the upcoming school year unfolded during a Garfield Re-2 School Board meeting on July 21.
“No masks for our children, no (critical race theory), no comprehensive sex education, no to COVID testing on our children,” district resident Bud Demicell said, proposing the board eventually agree to a memorandum of understanding highlighting these bullet points. “It’s been proven that our children are not at risk.”
Demicell said it should be up to the parents if they want their kids to mask up this coming school year.
Though nothing has been announced on whether masks will be required come fall semester — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended that everyone within schools wear masks for the 2021-22 school year — the Re-2 board said the district intends to base any future decisions in relation to the protocol on federal, state and local guidelines.
“At this point, we are monitoring our county’s data, also the state, also the country. Of course, that’s all part of the equation,” Superintendent Heather Grumley said. “But I think what’s important is what’s happening here, and our goal is to get our kids back to the most normal situation that they possibly can.”
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In May, Gov. Jared Polis rescinded all statewide mask requirements.
The most recent data from Garfield County Public Health Office, however, shows 60 new COVID-19 cases in Garfield County since July 21.
For the entire 2020-21 school year, the Re-2 district maintained in-person learning — something just 17% of school districts in the U.S. accomplished. Re-2 students were required to wear masks, while quarantines for students and staff were issued, and online learning services were provided when needed.
“I know there are people who are still very fearful, and they believe that the (COVID-19 vaccine) shot is the solution to the answer,” District resident Sherronna Bishop said. “But wherever there’s a risk, there always has to be a choice.”
For at least an hour before the meeting, Demicell and Bishop joined a small group of fellow district locals picketing in front of the Re-2 administrative building on Whiteriver Avenue. Messages inscribed on their signs included anywhere from “CDPHE is not our mommy” to openly criticizing critical race theory, COVID-19 testing and comprehensive sexual education in the classroom.
“I just want to make sure that they’re not masking our children come this fall,” said Demicell, who said he plans to run for school board this fall. “Our board has been giving a lot of misinformation to our citizens and our parents here in this community.”
Bishop said she pulled her kids out of the district because of the school board’s decision to mask students throughout the past school year. They’re now set to attend Liberty Classical Academy in New Castle.
“We took our kids out, we homeschooled them for the year,” she said. “I’ve worked all year long to save to put our kids in a private school now for this next year that’s not going to follow that pattern that the Re-2 school district did. We’re going to make some serious sacrifices, but our kids are worth it.”
District resident and longtime Re-2 teacher Gina Thompson responded during public comment to concerns over comprehensive sexual education and critical race theory.
Thompson said she would not consider it to be a complete education if teachers were unable to discuss topics such as race, even if discussions are difficult and some children may feel uncomfortable.
“I certainly never felt that my children were being indoctrinated to a certain way of thinking,” she said. “But I thought that they were consistently encouraged to view things from different points of view and to analyze arguments and rhetoric.”
Meanwhile, Thompson said parents have always been invited to review the comprehensive sexual education curriculum and that students have always been offered easy ways to opt-out of the lesson if requested.
“While I admire the engagements and concern over the education from those who were protesting tonight, I do not feel that those expressing concerns about comprehensive sex education, or debate critical race theory … I do not feel represented by them,” she said. “I believe that there are many parents who are very appreciative of our district and the teachers and the critical thinking skills they try to impart to our children.”
District resident and parent Marjorie Lear echoed Thompson’s sentiment toward educational standards, saying in order for children to succeed, they need opportunities for open and critical inquiry and engagement.
“I’m concerned that in our classrooms currently, learning opportunities could be lost if topics as basic and important as voting and civil rights movements can’t be explored in a meaningful way,” she said. “I feel like abandoning any kind of curriculum would only exacerbate this and create a further chilling effect in our community and in our classrooms.”
Reading from a written statement prepared in advance on behalf of the board, school board member Katie Mackley said parents concerned with the district’s current curriculum can schedule meetings with administrators.
“We know that many of you are here this evening to speak about critical race theory. We do not teach critical race theory in the Garfield Re-2 District,” Mackley said. “Critical race theory is an academic concept that has been in existence for more than 40 years, and there are significant disagreements, even among experts, about its precise definition as well as tenets.”
If parents also object to what’s being taught, the district will provide the opportunity to work with principals to find alternative options for students, Mackley said.
“The board would also like to make it abundantly clear that we have no interest in becoming involved in divisive, partisan political battles,” she said. “We are a nonpartisan board, and our goal is to provide an outstanding educational experience for all students in Garfield Re-2.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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