OMAK – A group of community members is voicing concern over the concept of critical race theory and whether it might be taught in local schools.
Omak School District Superintendent Michael Porter said a group has requested a meeting with him next week, but he’s not sure whether it’s the same group that staged a protest June 5 in Civic League Park.
The topic apparently came up in response to a resolution passed by the Omak School Board in May acknowledging Native Americans’ historical involvement in land now owned by the district.
During the protest, hosted by the Okanogan County Patriots, people said they were concerned about whether critical race theory might be taught in Omak. Mike Stenberg led the speakers and invited others to speak.
In the land acknowledgement document, the board recognized the district has the privilege of educating on the traditional territories of the 12 tribes of the Colville Confederated Tribes and current reservation territory.
It thanked tribal members “for allowing us to teach, learn and live on their land with their knowledge systems,” and encouraged everyone to learn more about the land, history, relationships with tribes, treaties, agreements, executive orders and jurisdictions in the tribes’ traditional territories.
“Education is a powerful tool and we encourage you all to use it to make a better world for future generations,” the document said.
Porter said the land acknowledgement “has no connection to critical race theory.”
Critical race theory is the concept that racism is a social construct and is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies, according to Stephen Sawchuk, associate editor of Education Week. Although the concept is more than 40 years old, it’s being discussed more and has led to divides between liberals and conservatives.
Porter said there also seems to be some confusion about Senate Bill 5044, passed by the Legislature last session, critical race theory and the state.
He said the bill is about culturally responsive practices and training for adults in the schools, not about student learning or standards, or content or curriculum.
“This bill doesn’t deal with critical race theory, and neither does the Omak School District,” he said. “Washington state is not requiring any schools to subscribe to, or teach to, CRT. Omak School District does not have any CRT curriculum, nor any plans to adopt or purchase or teach CRT curriculum.”
Porter said he is happy to meet with community members to discuss legislation “and how it applies to the Omak School District.”