Critical race theory in schools is making headlines across the country, and every American, regardless of their viewpoint, needs to understand how CRT programs can impact students’ constitutional rights.
Students’ First Amendment rights don’t stop at the schoolroom door.
Under the U.S. Constitution, every student—no matter their age or race—has the right to freedom of speech and equality under the law. That means students can freely express their views on any topic and have the right to be treated equally without discrimination due to their race, ethnicity or religion.
Teaching critical race theory is not unconstitutional. Requiring students to espouse those views is.
Teaching critical race theory is not unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the approach many schools are taking with CRT programs are violating students’ rights.
A recent lawsuit brought by Virginia parents, Menders v. Loudoun County School Board, highlights the problems posed by some critical race theory programs in public schools.
In Loudoun County Public Schools, participation in the Student Equity Ambassadors Program is limited to “students of color” and those who claim specific political ideology. The program is then paired with a “Bias Reporting System,” that turns students into the speech police, with the power to name and shame peers for expressing viewpoints inconsistent with critical race theory. Students suspected of straying from CRT ideology are reported to school officials.
Loudoun County Public Schools’ critical race theory program creates a hostile environment for thoughtful discussion.
The issue with Loudoun County Public Schools’ CRT program and others like it, is that they not only lay forth a radical political agenda that students are pressured to adopt, but that they also create environments where students are afraid to voice their views for fear of being shamed or punished.
Unpopular views may be unpopular, but they are not illegal. As Daniel Suhr, lead attorney in Menders v. Loudoun County School Board, points out, “Every student has a right to express his or her views and to engage in a respectful, robust conversation about real issues without fear of retribution.”
What is illegal is programs like “Bias Reporting Systems” that encourage students who embrace one particular view to report and intimidate peers from speaking up with any differing viewpoints.
Open discourse is essential for learning.
The role of public schools in America is to develop the next generation of leaders. Considering differing viewpoints and engaging in thoughtful discussions before forming an opinion is an important aspect of students’ development.
Schools should be encouraging the development of diverse viewpoints, but at the very least, they should be upholding students’ constitutional rights and not censoring their free speech.