A modification to local policy was first introduced Dec. 14, during former Superintendent Greg Smith’s last board of trustees meeting, and was approved on its second of two readings at the Jan. 25 meeting, a week after Williams had taken over. Board members did not discuss the policy amendment at either meeting.
The policy amendment does not change the way anything is being taught in the district, Board President Laura DuPont said in a Feb. 1 email. It was introduced not to address any board concerns regarding Dr. Williams but rather to put to rest any remaining public concern about the use of controversial educational resources, such as critical race theory, she wrote.
“The modification [to the instructional resource] serves to clarify and document the district stance that CRT or other divisive material will not be part of the curriculum for students or for staff,” she said via email.
Critical race theory involves the view that law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself is a socially constructed concept used by white people to promote white supremacy at the expense of people of color.
The CCISD policy amendment uses language specifying that district educational resources “shall not promote or endorse race or sex stereotyping or race or sex scapegoating.” Race or sex stereotyping is defined in the document as ascribing character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status or beliefs to a race or sex, or assigning them to an individual because of his or her race or sex. Race or sex scapegoating is defined as assigning fault, blame or bias to a race or sex, or to members of a race or sex because of their identity.
Focus on critical thinking, continuing excellence
The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills—part of the Texas Education Agency’s state standards for what students should know and be able to do—does not address critical race theory, and the state does not provide districts with materials that cover critical race theory, DuPont wrote. District curricula are designed to help students build critical thinking skills rather than to define specific ways or things those students should think, she added.
CCISD has a well-defined process for developing curricula that are clearly aligned with the TEKS, DuPont said. Prior to its amendment, the policy already contained language regarding how a parent of a district student, any employee or any district resident can formally challenge a district instructional resource “on the basis of appropriateness.” The full policy text can be read under item 11.A.16 of the board’s Jan. 25 meeting agenda.
Williams came to CCISD from Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, where educational resources related to the theory are considered acceptable, and was the sitting superintendent as the district reckoned with its own issues related to racial biases.
LCPS came under fire in February 2019 over a physical education activity involving the portrayal of runaway enslaved people, according to Loudoun Times-Mirror coverage. Following the incident, the district created a 16-step framework to address systemic racism and the overall culture that led to the incident; efforts to create the framework started in spring 2019, per LCPS board documents.
The LCPS board documents do not explicitly mention critical race theory. DuPont said in November critical race theory was not in LCPS curriculum “the way that some people have said it is.”
Williams said in a December interview that he does not intend to chart a new course in terms of the CCISD educational experience but rather that he wants to build on the district’s existing excellence. Board members reaffirmed their faith in Williams in late 2020 as CCISD and LCPS parents alike took to social media to express concerns about his effectiveness as an educational leader.
“Ultimately, [Williams’] job is to execute a vision, and our job is to develop it as board members,” trustee Scott Bowen said during a Dec. 1 board meeting. “Policy and politics are our job, and execution is his job.”
Two months later, DuPont reasserted that the decision to bring Williams to CCISD was based on his ability to help execute the district’s mission.
“The board did not hire Dr. Williams to bring specific programs, curriculum or agendas to CCISD but rather to provide the leadership to help the district build on its strengths and tradition of helping students achieve, contribute and lead with integrity,” she wrote.