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Indiana school counselor tells parents their kids can opt out of Black History Month lessons

The school district said it is “gathering more information on the matter.”
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An Indiana public school is facing criticism after one of its counselors sent a memo allowing parents to decline Black History Month lessons for their children.

“In honor of Black History Month and Valentine’s Day, I will be coming around and teaching lessons related to equity, caring and understanding differences,” read a memo from Sprunica Elementary School counselor Benjamin White.

The memo then highlights the benefits of covering such topics in the classroom.

“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 wrote. “These lessons can provide a great impact on students and help facilitate a better learning environment for all.”

The memo ended with: “If you would like to opt your child out of receiving these lessons then sign the form below and have your child return it to the school to give it to the teacher.”

The memo circulated on social media this week and prompted backlash against the school in Brown County, about 40 miles south of Indianapolis.

In a statement Wednesday, Emily Tracy, the superintendent of Brown County Schools, acknowledged the memo and said district officials were “gathering more information on the matter.”

“Our district supports teaching about the facts in our history including historical injustices,” Tracy said. “We are and will continue to be committed to having compassion for all and supporting an education community that will allow all students, staff, families and community members the opportunity to feel welcome.”

White did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Republican governors and lawmakers have fought to limit discussions of race in public schools, and some are now setting their sights on curriculum transparency, in which schools would be required to post lists of all of their teaching materials online, including books, articles and videos.

The measures are part of a push by conservatives to combat what they consider to be the threat of critical race theory, the academic study of institutional racism. Although critical race theory is typically studied only in colleges and universities, activists have sought to ban it in public elementary and high schools.

As of last month in Indiana, three anti-critical race theory bills included curriculum transparency provisions.