A counselor at an Indiana public school has come under fire after he sent a memo to parents telling them that they could decide to opt their children out of Black History Month lessons he intended teaching.
According to NBC News, the memo was sent by Sprunica Elementary School counselor Benjamin White. “In honor of Black History Month and Valentine’s Day, I will be coming around and teaching lessons related to equity, caring and understanding differences,” White stated in the memo.
The memo also touched on the advantages of teaching such lessons to students. “Studies show that students who have a greater understanding of diversity in the classroom and outside world will demonstrate improved learning outcomes such as improved grades, better peer relationships, and greater career success later on,” White wrote.
“These lessons can provide a great impact on students and help facilitate a better learning environment for all.”
Despite the explanation, the school counselor told parents they could decide to opt their children out of the lessons. “If you would like to opt your child out of receiving these lessons then sign the form below and have your child return it to the school to give it to the teacher,” White stated.
The contents of the memo drew backlash after it made rounds on Twitter. “This is wrong. Parents should not have authority to hand-pick a child’s curriculum in public schools,” a user stated.
“Public schooling should teach kids what education experts believe they need to know. It should not allow public money to fund the bigotry echo chamber of individual parents.”
Another user wrote: “I’m sure Black and brown students aren’t given this option for white history.”
In the wake of the backlash, Brown County Schools superintendent Emily Tracy released a statement apologizing for the contents of the letter, Indianapolis Star reported. Tracy said the letter was “erroneously advising” parents and students that they had the choice of skipping Black History Month lessons.
“To be clear, our District does not permit students to opt out of history lessons — including ones based on historical injustices,” Tracy said in the February 17 statement to students, families and staff. “We apologize for the confusion caused by the letter and offer our assurances that Brown County Schools is committed to providing an inclusive educational environment for all students and families.”
Republican lawmakers and conservatives have embarked on a campaign to restrict lessons and conversations about race in public schools, NBC News reported. Their actions are part of a wider effort to ultimately ban Critical Race Theory lessons in public schools.
As part of their efforts, the conservative activists are advocating for curriculum transparency in public schools. This will require such educational institutions to share their teaching material lists online.