Missouri school board to reinstate Black history classes with new curriculum
Dec 28, 2023, 4:46 PM
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Students at a suburban St. Louis school district can continue to take elective Black history courses, school leaders announced Thursday in a reversal of a vote last week by the conservative-led school board to end the classes.
But the Francis Howell School District board first must approve a new curriculum “that is rigorous and largely politically neutral,” the board president and superintendent said in a statement Thursday to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“After thorough discussions, we believe there is an appropriate path forward to offer Black History and Black Literature with an updated curriculum standard in the 2024-2025 school year,” board President Adam Bertrand and Superintendent Kenneth Roumpos said.
The Francis Howell School District board voted 5-2 last week to stop offering Black History and Black Literature courses that had been offered at the district’s three high schools since 2021. A little over 100 students took the courses this semester in the predominantly white suburban area of St. Louis.
Last week’s decision to drop the courses was met with protests outside the board meeting. Several parents and students chanted, “Let them learn!”
Activists appear skeptical of the board’s plan for revamped curriculum.
“Black History and Black Literature cannot be taught from a ‘politically-neutral’ perspective because our entire experience in America has been impacted by socio-political movements,” Heather Fleming, founder of the Missouri Equity Education Partnership, wrote on Facebook.
In July, the board revoked an anti-racism resolution and ordered copies removed from school buildings. The resolution was adopted in August 2020 amid the national turmoil after a police officer killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The resolution pledged that the Francis Howell community would “speak firmly against any racism, discrimination, and senseless violence against people regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability.”
The resolution and course offerings were targeted by five new members who have taken control of the board since being elected last year and in April, all with the backing of the conservative political action committee Francis Howell Families. All seven board members are white.
The PAC’s website expresses strong opposition to the courses, saying they involve principles of critical race theory, though many experts say the scholarly theory centered on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions is not taught in K-12 schools.
School board elections across the U.S. have become intense political battlegrounds since 2020, when some groups began pushing back against policies aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.
Political action committees in many local districts have successfully elected candidates who promised to take action against teachings on race and sexuality, remove books deemed offensive and stop transgender-inclusive sports teams.