ATL. HIGHLANDS – “We’re counting on Dr. Beams! I liked what she said” were comments made by both Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kirby of Laurie Rd. at the end of last night’s meeting of the local Board of Education.
Kirby and his wife, a retired educator, were both in attendance at the board’s first ‘in person’ meeting following Covid shutdowns, and asked Dr. Tara Beams, Superintendent of the tri-school district how the district is going to teach the critical race theory.
At her first meeting since she assumed the position at the retirement of Dr. Susan E. Compton, Dr. Beams made it clear it is not ”Critical race theory” that is being mandated, but rather an understanding of differences and similarities, and how to ensure inclusion and equitable practices. The superintendent said this school board, like all boards throughout the state, is awaiting word from Governor Murphy and the state Department of Education for the sample lessons to implement the new studies in the classroom.
The bill, introduced a year ago and sponsored by all Democrat legislative representatives, requires school districts to provide instruction on diversity and inclusion as part of the implementation of the Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education for students in grades kindergarten through 12.
The instruction highlights and promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, tolerance and belonging on topics including gender and sexual orientation; race and ethnicity; disabilities; religious tolerance; and unconscious bias, and encourages safe, welcoming, and inclusive environments for all students regardless of differences. Under the bill, which was signed into law in March of this year, and takes effect beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, the Commissioner of Education will provide school districts with sample learning activities and resources designed to promote diversity and inclusion. They have not yet arrived, Dr. Beams explained.
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Several Republicans opposed the bill, including Monmouth County Assemblyman Gerry Sharfenberger who said it was unnecessary for young children. Assemblyman Brian Berger of Morris County make it more clear when he opposed the bills, saying when children like his own son still believe in Santa Claus and leprechauns on St. Patrick’s day, “there is a certain level of naivete that our children enjoy and we should really protect that.”
But Dr. Beams explained to the Kirby’s, the board and the approximate ten residents in attendance at the meeting, “it’s about tolerance and inclusion, as well as equitable practices. It’s more about understanding inclusions as well as understanding we are diverse. And we all have to be respected regardless of any differences.”
The Kirby’s said after the meeting thy are pleased with Dr. Beam’s explanations and are counting on her to ensure the understanding of diversity is taught correctly, and not as the critical race theory where children are taught they are either better, or not as good as other children because of their color or ethnicity.
“I am not a racist,” said Kirby, who was born in England and has been living in the borough for decades, first as a summer resident, “ but the critical race theory is the basis for Marxism.” He explained that while he and his wife do not have children in the school system, “we pay taxes for the education of all these children, and I don’t want my tax dollars going to teach socialism.” He voiced some concern over the equity inclusions in the new law, saying “equity is not equality. They’re different. ”
The former British subject also wondered why American-born residents are not speaking up more against the rise of socialistic practices and regulations. “I wasn’t born here and I am very worried about it. I cannot understand why all Americans are not more frightened by all these measures.”