Utah Democrats walk out of session on Critical Race Theory

May 19, 2021, 7:36 PM
Bill changing car tint limits passed last week....
Utah lawmakers passed a bill changing limits on car window tints. Colby Walker, KSL NewsRadio.

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite Gov. Spencer Cox opting not to include Critical Race Theory or Second Amendment Sanctuary legislation in a special session Wednesday, Utah lawmakers went ahead with a session of their own to address them — but some of their colleagues walked out in protest. 

Utah Democrats walk out of Critical Race Theory discussion

House Democrats walked out before the discussion even began to send a message, according to Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City. 

“Our caucus wasn’t involved in any of the discussions,” she said. “We weren’t consulted, we weren’t invited to any meetings.” 

Moss believes Republicans intentionally left Democrats out of the discussions. She does not think the legislature should be telling the state school board what belongs in its curriculum. 

“It goes back to the Utah constitution — it’s the state board of education that oversees public education, not the legislature,” Moss said. 

Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost told Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News on KSL NewsRadio the measure lacked diverse voices. 

“The entire endeavor was authored without any effort whatsoever to reach out to any member of our body who is a person of color, who have real lived experience with the issues that are dealt with in Critical Race Theory,” Dailey-Provost said. 

Republicans: “Nobody wants their kids… to be shamed” 

The American Bar Association describes Critical Race Theory as a practice that “critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers.”

About a dozen states to date have considered bills that target Critical Race Theory; most recently, Idaho’s governor signed one such measure into law. The theory’s proponents argue we should acknowledge how past racist policies may continue to affect communities of color. Opponents argue it teaches children to hate America, or to feel shame or guilt over who they are. 

“We’re one of the states with the five highest suicide rates,” Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, told Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News. “Nobody wants their kids to go to school and to be shamed for the color of their skin, the way that God made them. And I think that’s very important, and I think some parents don’t want their kids to be shamed in school because they were born as American.” 

Weiler argues curriculum decisions should come at the local level. 

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, sponsored the resolution preventing the use of Critical Race Theory in K-12 education in Utah. He says the Utah State Board of Education should define Critical Race Theory. 

“And because we’re spread so far apart, and moving around so rapidly, we haven’t engaged in a real conversation about what this is,” he said. 

Response from state school board 

The Utah Board of Education sent a newsletter to educators across the state Wednesday addressing the Critical Race Theory debate. In the statement, the board pointed out it’s received no requests to add Critical Race Theory to the curriculum. 

“To date, no Board Member has raised Critical Race Theory (CRT) as an agenda item to include in Utah’s K-12 schools, and advocates have not asked for specific theories to be taught. Rather, there has been a focus on education equity and access to learning for all students,” the statement reads. 

The Board recognizes the current national discourse surrounding CRT, and its potential for divisive impacts on teachers, students, and families. We also recognize that how we respond and engage in this discourse will, too, carry impacts and provide lessons of its own.

We have been deeply engaged in efforts surrounding education equity, and race in schools over the past several months. The efforts have produced meaningful milestones including a working definition for “educational equity” and a Resolution Denouncing Racism and Embracing Equity in Utah Schools. Our current examination now centers on standards for how school districts and charter schools provide professional learning on equity.

Even with the walkout on Wednesday, both the Critical Race Theory resolution and one establishing the state as a Second Amendment Sanctuary passed the legislature. As resolutions, the measures may have much weight. 

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Utah Democrats walk out of session on Critical Race Theory