RENO, Nev. – Nevada has become the latest flashpoint in a national debate over how to teach students about racism and its role in U.S. history, with parents clashing over curriculum proposals.
People wore MAGA hats and waved signs outside a packed school board meeting this week in Reno, while trustees considered expanding K-5 curriculum to include more teaching about equity, diversity and racism.
Opponents say the proposal would lead to the teaching of “critical race theory,” which seeks to reframe the narrative of American history. Critics say such lesson plans teach students to hate the United States.
A conservative group even suggested outfitting teachers with body cameras to ensure they aren't indoctrinating children with such lessons.
“You guys have a serious problem with activist teachers pushing politics in the classroom, and there's no place for it, especially for our fifth graders,” Karen England, Nevada Family Alliance executive director, told Washoe County School District trustees Tuesday.
District officials there and in Carson City, where a similar debate is playing out, say critical race theory is not part of their plans.
The clashes mirror fights underway throughout the U.S. In GOP-controlled statehouses, lawmakers have passed measures prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory, a reaction to the nation's racial reckoning after last year's police killing of George Floyd.
Nevada has bucked that trend. Gov. Steve Sisolak signed legislation this week to add multicultural education to social studies curriculum standards and teach students about the historic contributions of members of additional racial and ethnic groups.
Dr. Jonathan Moore, deputy superintendent of Nevada's education agency, said the laws clarified social studies “content themes,” which already included concepts like social justice and diversity. The standards do not include critical race theory, which draws a line from slavery and segregation to contemporary inequities and argues racism remains embedded in laws and institutions.
Meanwhile, the Black mother of a mixed-race student is suing a Las Vegas charter school over a “Sociology of Change” course that covers the concept of privilege as it pertains to race, gender and sexual orientation.