ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Parents and students gathered outside the Forest Hills Local School District's Board of Education Thursday, protesting the board's ban on anti-racism and critical race theory teachings.
The "Culture of Kindness" Resolution passed by a 3-2 vote at Wednesday's board meeting. It bans assignments where students would have to consider their race, socioeconomic class, religion, gender identity or sexuality. It also states schools cannot force individuals to admit privilege or oppression.
During public comments, parents and students spoke against the resolution, pleading with board members not to pass it. At times, those in attendance shouted and spoke over members as they were speaking — some yelled at those who voted yes, calling them racist.
Those not in attendance protested outside a special meeting Thursday focused on interviewing superintendent candidates. Board members went outside before the meeting, telling people participants were limited "in order to allow our facilitator to lead more focus, productive conversations."
"I hope that they can find a common thread to help bring us together because we all want what's best for our kids,” Natalie Hastings said outside the meeting. “We all want to maintain a quality school district. Censoring the classroom is not going to bring us a quality school district.”
Those who could attend the meeting had a Q&A with two candidates. A third candidate dropped out Thursday, saying his values did not align with the board's new resolution.
Board member Sara Jonas created the resolution, saying Wednesday she "didn't want (the district) to be taking on activist positions."
"Anti-racism is being defined as activism, we need to be treating everybody as an individual and not lifting some up based on their perception of power and pushing other people down based on their power," Jonas said.
Fellow member Leslie Rasmussen argued the language is vague and could lead to confusion on what is considered appropriate or not appropriate to talk about in schools.
"Shame on you if you say we're kind and vote for something like this," Rasmussen said. "That is a slap in the face."
Rasmussen was allegedly slapped in the face outside the middle school where the meeting took place. She claims someone came up to her and slapped her. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office said a police report was made and they are looking into this incident. WCPO requested that report. The sheriff's office said it is not available at this time.
The resolution comes less than a month after the board canceled Turpin High School's diversity day. Students protested the decision, walking out of class and hosting their own event.
Bringing back diversity day was also discussed in Wednesday's meeting, but a motion to have it in 2023 failed.
Because some felt their concerns were not heard, they said they were sure to be loud Thursday night in hopes the district's new superintendent is aware of the issue.
“We need a superintendent that should be able to support students' needs and be able to teach students our true history,” student Cora Horman said. “So we can learn from our mistakes and move forward.”
Once a vote for the superintendent is made another special meeting will be scheduled.
What is Critical Race Theory?
Critical Race Theory(CRT) essentially seeks to understand how racism has shaped U.S. Laws.
According to the American Bar Association, CRT "is not a diversity and inclusion training but a practice of interrogating the role of race and racism in society."
Kimberllé Crenshaw—who coined the term “CRT”— said it "critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers. CRT also recognizes that race intersects with other identities, including sexuality, gender identity, and others. CRT recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past. Instead, it acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation."
The Legal Defense Fund defines CRT as an "academic and legal framework that denotes that systemic racism is part of American society — from education and housing to employment and healthcare. Critical Race Theory recognizes that racism is more than the result of individual bias and prejudice. It is embedded in laws, policies and institutions that uphold and reproduce racial inequalities. According to CRT, societal issues like Black Americans’ higher mortality rate, outsized exposure to police violence, the school-to-prison pipeline, denial of affordable housing, and the rates of the death of Black women in childbirth are not unrelated anomalies."
Since 2020, at least 35 states have signed into law or proposed legislation banning or restricting CRT teaching.