Unfortunately, we can’t rely on many local news outlets to report accurate information, so I’ve compiled a timeline below that might be helpful for those who haven’t been following the School Board Election.
4/21: Board votes to purchase a Critical Race Theory-based training called BetterLesson. The training would be done with an initial group of teachers, who would then instruct other teachers in the district regarding the material. The expectation was that they would incorporate the ideology into all subjects. Here is copy of the approved proposal.
For an overview of Critical Race Theory, see this briefing guide composed almost entirely of quotes from Critical Race Theorists themselves. In summary, it’s the belief that all systems in the United States are founded on racism, which is perpetuated by white people who are inherently racist. It also asserts that concepts like merit, equal rights, and evidence-based reasoning are all corrupted, racist concepts in need of reform. Supporters of critical race theory also believe that anyone who does not accept the claims of CRT is a racist.
4/24: A concerned teacher shares BetterLesson materials with community members.
5/5: It is discovered the funding source for the training cannot be used for this type of training. The training is canceled at this time. Board says it will be “revisited” at a later time and suggests they’ll move forward with purchasing it.
5/12: The Riley County Republicans circulate an email directing people to BetterLessons and to call/email the board/attend the next Board of Education meeting. Emails and calls are made. Citizens are assured that the training “isn’t CRT” or that the board “is not pursuing that anymore.” They are also told that the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion had “no say in it” and that “it came from the district.”
5/19: Community members speak against CRT at the Board of Education meeting. When they leave, board members disparage or dismiss their concerns. Some still insist that CRT isn’t being taught while Jurdene Coleman (board president) and member Katrina Lewis openly endorse CRT. They also attack specific members of the Riley County Republicans for encouraging people to attend the meeting. Member Curt Hermann famously says “no one who attended the meeting tonight will run for the Board of Education.”
5/20 The Manhattan Mercury/KMAN/WIBW run various hit pieces about those who spoke against CRT, particularly targeting Christians who spoke. Local journalists imply that community concerns are “overblown” and that Kansas schools aren’t teaching CRT. Since then, over a dozen Kansas teachers have signed a pledge to teach CRT even if it’s banned in the public school system.
5/27: A flier is circulated encouraging people to show up at the next BOE meeting and “support the work of the Committee for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity” (referring to the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion) and speak in favor of mandating the BetterLesson training.
6/1: Ten people announce they’re running for the BOE, resulting in a Primary. Bill Speigel drops out of the race shortly after. Despite calling himself a “lifelong Republican,” he endorses only liberal candidates and insists the controversy CRT is “overblown.”
6/2: People speak for and against BetterLesson and CRT at the BOE Meeting. The board is receptive and supportive of those who are in favor of CRT. Progressive activists harass those who oppose it. Mercury/KMAN/WIBW run a flurry of articles that simultaneously insist that CRT is harmless and good but that Kansas schools aren’t teaching it.
6/11: The Mercury runs another piece about the CRT and cites a BetterLesson CEO who says the training does not include CRT (despite the entire section dedicated to “inclusion and equity” CRT-based resources). WIBW runs an article suggesting that CRT is not taught in Kansas Universities. As local media runs with the “CRT is not being taught” narrative, a handful of local professors, teachers, and activists insist that the curriculum is CRT-based and praise it.
6/15: The Committee for Diversity and Inclusion meets. Their meetings are not open to the public in person or online. Their website says that people can attend their meetings in person, but no meeting actually takes place at the date/time listed. There is no list of members and only some of their subcommittees are listed. Attendees must request to be a guest before they can attend. At the meeting, they discuss implementing “equity audits,” among other action items. Their materials are CRT-based.
6/17: Members of the Riley County Democrats slander BOE Candidate Betty Mattingly-Ebert as a “genocide-apologist” for sharing an informative chart about “social justice” terminology created by scholars at Portland State University.
6/30: Over half of the attendees at the BOE meeting speak against CRT. Chair of the Riley County Democrats, Kim Zito, verbally attacks a fellow community member with the board president’s blessing. The president forces people out, then lets them back in due to the advice of legal counsel. The Manhattan Mercury feverishly tries to cover for Zito and the board but misses a few important details. (The Mercury issues corrections days later.)
6/30: Current Board President Jurdene Coleman reposts anti-white statements on Facebook, and BOE Candidate Jen Chua “likes” them.
7/7: As it becomes increasingly apparent that there is very little community support for CRT, the school board abandons its previous defenses of BetterLesson at the BOE meeting and presents something different as if that’s what they wanted to pursue all along, although the members still ponder how they’ll use their $6,000 BetterLesson credit in the future. No progressive activists show up. More concerned parents and teachers speak against CRT.
It’s obvious that the board’s choice to temporarily drop the training was motivated by political reasons. They will pursue CRT again if they secure a progressive majority on the board after the election.
7/8: The Riley County Republicans host an Open Forum that draws over 105 people. None of the candidates who support CRT participate despite being invited. All of the questions asked were submitted by attendees, unlike all other local forums.
7/9: Riley County Democrats host a fundraiser because, according to Kim Zito, “the school board is in danger of being overrun by fascists” if the candidates who oppose CRT are elected. Shortly after, the Riley County Democrats send out a mass mailing to all Democrats and Independents. The Manhattan Mercury chastises both the Riley County Democrats and the Riley County Republicans for “making the BOE election political” but fails to mention that the local Republicans have not hosted fundraisers or paid for mailings but instead organized volunteers to help spread awareness about CRT and the board’s extremely poor handling of valid community concerns.
Other recent developments: Board Member Curt Hermann passively aggressively scolds candidates who oppose CRT about 36 minutes into the last meeting. The Riley County Democrats send out an email bemoaning the fact that some candidates have been endorsed by a local Christian homeschool group. Soon after, candidate Steven Ruzzin’s mailbox is vandalized.