Downers Grove

Critical race theory opponents make their case at District 99 meeting

Community High School District 99 “has not now nor has it ever taught critical race theory,” School Board President Nancy Kupka said at Monday night’s board meeting, but her words seemed to fall on deaf ears for the large crowd of individuals who attended the meeting to protest what they believe is addition of CRT to the district’s curriculum.

“Community High School District 99 has not now nor has it ever taught that all white people are systematically racist or that all of our institutions are systematically racist,” Kupka read from a prepared statement. “Community High School District 99 has not now nor has it ever taught that people are oppressors based on the color of their skin. CHSD 99 has not now nor has it ever pushed a divisive narrative to our students and staff. This is misinformation and counter to our missions and goals.”

Despite Kupka’s statement, the approximately 150 protestors—many clad in red shirts—insisted that the district is advancing critical race theory, but using other code words and terminology to advance the concept.

“When citizens come before this body and they use the term critical race theory, they are referring to its elements and manifestations in the following: culturally responsive teaching, Illinois Board of Education 24 (the Illinois Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards), which takes effect Oct. 21, Illinois Senate Bill 814, defund the police, microaggressions, equity, diversity, white privilege, My Name, My Story, the Gary R. Howard Institute, the 1619 Project and any backdoor Marxism,” Noel Manley, a Darien resident, told the board.

Senate Bill 814 creates a new teacher and principal induction and mentoring program that will abide by Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards. Meanwhile, the Gary R. Howard Equity Institutes promote bringing equity alive in the classroom, address the many demographic gaps that exist in our student outcomes and to move schools closer to the realization of our vision of social justice, according to its website.

Published by the New York Times, the 1619 Project “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative,” according to the paper. District 99 has partnered with My Name, My Story, an organization that believes “that stories inspire empathy and empathy drives change,” according to the group’s website.

Critical race theory is an academic concept that maintains that race is a social construct, and that racism is not simply the product of individual bias or prejudice, but something embedded in legal systems and policies.

But opponents believe critical race theory is something different. Wake Up 99, an organization described as “concerned parents and taxpayers standing up against the District 99 school board concerning CRT/politics, masks and vaccination mandates and National Sex Ed Standards” believe CRT is built on Marxism beliefs and has crept into public institutions via euphemisms such as equity, social justice, diversity and inclusion.

Rich Brennan, a Downers Grove resident, told the board that “CRT is Marxist ideology in practice.”

“Systemic racism and critical race theory are both weapons of the anti-American Left. They preach racial animosity,” Brennan said. “They teach Downers Grove students that the multi-racial friends they grew up with are not their friends. CRT divides by skin color into oppressors and oppressed, black versus white, unacceptable.”

Kylie Spahn, also a Downers Grove resident, rejected the notion that critical race theory is an all-encompassing term that includes the district’s efforts to promote equity, inclusion and diversity.

“Culturally responsive teaching is not the same as critical race theory. They are not interchangeable.”

Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt, a Downers Grove resident and member of the village council, said the efforts to weaponize critical race theory is not limited to District 99.

“Conservative media is using CRT as the next boggeyman,” Sadowski-Fugitt said. “The objectors ignore the fact that they are prioritizing white discomfort over something that does no harm and doesn’t even exist in the K through 12 classroom over the actual, documented pain and discrimination of systemically marginalized groups in America.”