SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – Changes to the Johnston County School District’s code of ethics require teachers to not “undermine” foundational United States documents or teach that racism is a permanent aspect of American life.
Friday, the school board passed a new policy with stronger language regarding teaching about race.
“Racism causes damage to individuals and the community. When racism is present, it creates a lack of trust and respect,” a segment of the new policy reads. “No student or staff member shall be subjected to the notion that racism is a permanent component of American life. No unequal value shall be placed on any race, gender, religion, ethnicity, social class, or any other identity group.”
It also added new rules for how U.S. historical figures should be portrayed.
“No fictional accounts or narratives shall be used to invalidate actual objective historical events. All people who contributed to American Society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture,” the new policy says.
The school district created the new policies after the Johnston County Board of Commissioners decided over the summer to withhold $7.9 million out of a total $79.9 million in funding until something was made to “eliminate the possibility of CRT – Critical Race Theory – teachings and any other potentially divisive teaching topics.”
Critical race theory involves teaching that systemic racism persistent in the United States.
While parent groups in Johnston County have protested the teaching in schools, the theory is not a part of North Carolina Education standards.
April Lee, a Johnston County teacher and leader of the Johnston County Association of Educators, denies the theory is taught inside the district’s classrooms.
“I think that there’s some confusion on teaching actual history that reflects the history of all people that live in the United States with Critical Race Theory,” Lee said.
Lee disagrees with the new policy.
“I think it ties our hands, at least for some teachers, who won’t feel comfortable because they’ll feel like they’ll be called into question,” Lee said.
During Friday’s board meeting, members applauded those who helped frame the new rules, including input from a group of district teachers and administrators.
“We had principals, law enforcement officers, teachers,” school board member Ronald Johnson said. “It was probably the best group of people who could have reviewed this, reviewing this, so I’m very thankful.”
Johnston County school funding will be addressed during Monday’s 6 p.m. Johnston County Board of Commissioners meeting.