An Indiana public school counselor reportedly sent a letter to parents that gives them the option to opt out of Black History Month lessons for their children, causing controversy.
Sprunica Elementary School counselor Benjamin White wrote in a tweet that he will be teaching lessons related to “equity, caring, and understanding differences” in the next two weeks.
The letter stated, “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 continued “If you would like to opt your child out for receiving these lessons, then sign the form below and have your child return it to the school.”
According to the data from the state’s Department of Education, 97% of the school’s 237 students are white.
Brown County Schools Superintendent Emily Tracy also acknowledged the letter in a message to students and staff on Wednesday. She stated that the district is still gathering more information on what happened, also stating that “we support teaching about the facts in our history including historical injustices.”
Tracy stated in an email to IndyStar that district policy does not allow an opt-out option for the required curriculum, including social studies and history. “Any decision related to parental consent and curriculum determinations are made in accordance with the law,” she wrote.
The Indiana House has already passed a bill to restrict what teachers are allowed to say about politics, history, and race inside of their classrooms, an IndyStar report states. The legislation is now with the state Senate.
35 states have introduced bills or have taken other steps to restrict teaching critical race theory, and since last year, 14 states have imposed such restrictions through legislation, executive actions, or commission votes, according to an Education Week analysis.
“It’s so anti-intellectual. It’s rigidly closed. It’s almost an effort to keep people walled off from the past,” Yale historian David Blight told Axios after hearing about the Indiana opt-out controversy. “I mean, do we give parents an option to opt-out about learning biology? Do we give them an option about learning mathematics? How about an option for learning to read and write?
Blight stated that history continues to be a controversial subject due to its competing narratives about the past.