The Ohio State Board of Education has backtracked on its own efforts to fight racism, voting Wednesday evening to repeal a resolution that demanded equity for students of color.
School board members reportedly voiced concerns that the initial anti-racism resolution—crafted at the height of the George Floyd protests—would promote division, with one person going so far as to call it “a crisis in our nation and our country.” In a 10-7 vote, the board opted to replace the resolution with another that would “promote academic excellence” regardless of “race, ethnicity, or creed.”
Introduced last year by the board’s president, Laura Kohler, Resolution 20 condemned hate crimes and white supremacy, laying the groundwork for public educators to be schooled on the concept of implicit bias. It also sought to address the racial gap with test scores, advanced placement classes, graduation rates, resources in classrooms, and disciplinary measures.
At the time, Kohler acknowledged that racism is still a major problem within the Ohio school system, and “while we earnestly strive to correct [racism and inequality], we have a great deal of work left to do.”
The resolution passed in July 2020 but was challenged in September 2021 by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who questioned whether or not the measure was legal—and even accused it of being counterproductive to Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
In a letter last month, Yost alleged the resolution was a tool “designed to establish and maintain white supremacy and racial oppression forever.”
“Honest history must be taught in our schools,” Yost continued. “Ugly chapters must be plainly taught… But so, too, should our history include the story of how the American people and our legal institutions put an end to these injustices and continue the work to guarantee equal treatment for all.”
Board members opposed to the resolution compared it to critical race theory, a widely misunderstood and misconstrued academic concept that right-wingers have become fixated on. The theory—which emerged at Harvard Law School in the ’70s— examines the inequities that different ethnic and racial groups experience. Some of its critics have alleged that it pits children against one another, including making white children feel guilty for being white, with little understanding of the concept itself.
Before Resolution 20 was rescinded, some Ohio residents spoke out against it.
One resident implied that it was a stepping stone for critical race theory. During the board meeting Wednesday, Dennis Crouch said, “We must stop it in its tracks and remove it from Ohio and our country, or [it] will continue to consume us and move us all to atheism and Marxism. We will have lost America if we continue on the path we’re on right now.”
Board of Education Member Brandon Shea introduced a bill to combat the previously passed initiative, called Resolution 13, that’s supposed to “promote academic excellence in K-12 education for each Ohio student without prejudice or respect to race, ethnicity, or creed.” The initiative does not take into account any discrimination that students of color may face.
“Critical race theory has been made to be a boogeyman because they want to distract from what the real issues are,” said school board member and retired teacher Meryl Johnson, who voted in favor of Resolution 20, during Wednesday’s meeting. “And the real issues are, Are we going to do what’s best for our children of color so that they can have the same opportunities as everyone else?”
Some educators say getting rid of Resolution 20 will only perpetuate more racism.
“Colorblindness is blind to racism and promotes the ideology that racial equity and equality have been attained,” said Brookville school teacher Mona Bailey. “Putting this ideology into practice in a still racist world would only result in more racism.”