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Critical Race Theory Questions and Answers

There is a lot of conversation and misinformation about Critical Race Theory across our nation and in our community. The following questions and answers are intended to provide information about what our school district does and doesn't do. 

  • Critical Race Theory (CRT) is term that has been around since the 1970s and has begun to be used recently as a political shortcut to lump together a variety of positions and practices. Many times, the term is used without being fully understood by the user. Because of this, many important equity initiatives that are not CRT are getting swept up in the current debate.

    CRT teaches that race is a socially constructed idea rather than biological. The theory states that bias is embedded within our institutions, laws and public policy and is primarily responsible for the unequal outcomes we see in systems like education, health care, etc. It is also a framework that is used to help undersand why racial inequities exist in our systems and how to eliminate them. 

    Within school districts in Washington state, there are many efforts to increase access to opportunities for all students to be successful and to close opportunity gaps between students. These are broadly referred to as an equity focus, equity initiatives or using an equity lens. These are not the same as Critical Race Theory, although some of them may contain similar elements, such as analyzing a school district's policies to determine if they disproportionately impact some student groups more than others. Equity in
    education is about making sure our systems are set up so that all students are able to succeed.

  • Critical Race Theory is not included in any student curriculum. However, it is understandable that some community members are concerned by the rumors they have heard and want to better understand what children are learning in our schools.

  • Our district’s goal is to better serve all students and one of the ways we do that is by learning more about different races and cultures and examining our own practices for potential bias. Critical race theory is not centered on blaming individuals or making anyone feel guilty. It focuses on understanding how race plays a role in how institutions like education serve people. Furthermore, there is
    nothing in critical race theory that promo tes the idea that any race is superior to any other; in fact, most racial justice work promotes the exact opposite idea.

    We want all students to feel welcome and to better understand each other and the many different backgrounds and experiences that make our schools great. Our schools are microcosms of our communities, and we aim to remove barriers wherever possible so each student can succeed.  

  • If you have questions about what your child is learning in class, talk with your child about the curriculum and class discussions. We are a very diverse school district with many races and about 100 different languages spoken in homes throughout our district. The histories and experiences from students and their families are unique and important to hear and honor.

  • As any parent of more than one child can attest, different children have different needs. Equity is about that simple and instinctive understanding that each student needs different supports, and that the same student may need extra support in one area but not in another.

    School districts regularly review student outcome data to understand which students are more successful or less successful academically. District staff also review differences exist in how disciplinary actions are applied to students. Nationally and in Washington state, these gaps exist between a variety of student groups. Examples of those groups include:


    • Students from low income households
    • Students with disabilities
    • Students experiencing homelessness
    • Students in foster care
    • Students who are English language learners
    • Students of different races and/or ethnicities

    The education system in the U.S. has long supported additional funding and other supports for students who have been less successful academically than others. For example, federal Title I funding is designed to support the success of students from low income families. Another area where different types of support are provided to some students is through IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act), which is the primary funding source for supplementing local and state dollars to support the needs of students with disabilities and special education programs.

    Here is a helpful listing to federal funding for various student categories: An Overview of Federal Education Funding

    Washington state student data shows significant disparities in a variety of student outcomes, including academic assessments, student discipline, readiness for kindergarten, graduation rates, placement in advanced coursework and college attendance after graduation. When disparities are evident in the academic outcomes between groups of students, most school leaders agree that it is the moral and legal obligation of the school district to study why those gaps exist and support policies and practices that close them.

    School boards and superintendents cannot address the disparities whether they are racial, economic, or some other factor if they don't discuss, evaluate and work to mitigate them.