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Huntsville City Schools received Critical Race Theory training in 2015, document shows

The controversial academic concept of Critical Race Theory (CRT) was introduced to Huntsville City Schools administrators and teachers during a training session in 2015, according to documentation obtained by Yellowhammer News.

An agenda of the two-day teacher training session, which began May 11, 2015, shows that district educators received instruction centered around the subject of “cultural responsiveness.”

CRT is specifically mentioned by name in the agenda on the second day of the training session. “Theoretical Foundations: Critical Race Theory/Racial Identity Development” is listed alongside the agenda’s 9:00-10:00 time slot.

The bottom of the agenda states the intentions of following up with teachers in a monthly meeting each semester to track the progress of educators’ implementation of the training material in classrooms.

While the emergence of CRT in the national political dialogue did not take place until 2020, the teacher training document would signify one of the earliest known efforts to incorporate the progressive academic concept in Alabama public schools.

Training agenda as follows:

The 2015 agenda outline mentions training participation with the “Central Office” a total of four times, which is an apparent reference to school district leadership.

When the teacher training on CRT occurred seven years ago, Casey Wardynski, a Republican candidate for Alabama’s fifth congressional district seat, was serving as Huntsville City Schools superintendent.

At the time of the presentation, the training facilitators, who held extensive backgrounds in culture and race education, held positions at Denver Public Schools and the University of Colorado Denver. Prior to accepting the Huntsville City Schools superintendent position in 2011, Wardynski served as the chief financial officer at Aurora Public Schools in Colorado.

Throughout his congressional bid, Wardynski has made his public opposition to CRT a central tenet of his campaign platform.

During a recent interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” Wardynski was asked to respond to claims that tenets of CRT were incorporated into the school district while he was superintendent.

He denied the claims and contended, “Nobody even heard of Critical Race Theory until 2020.”

The contentious academic concept has become a leading social issue across the nation over the past two years, as partisan divides over CRT continue to spark intense debate.

Progressives have long argued that the implementation of CRT was necessary for sake of “anti-racism” and “equity.” However, many skeptics view the teachings as inherently racist in nature due to the concept’s fixation with racial classification and instances of labels such as “victims” and “oppressors” being incorporated in its teachings.

When reached for comment regarding his involvement in the 2015 training session, Wardynski pointed to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) desegregation mandate which ordered the school district to achieve racial balance.

“The training referenced here was part of a 92-page court order from an Obama-appointed federal judge,” said Wardynski in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “While I’m not sure why this is coming up seven years after I left Huntsville City Schools, and 50 years after the federal order was instituted to end school segregation in Alabama, I am sure that it’s not something I elected to implement in my role as Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools.”

Consent order as follows:

Wardynski continued, “As a candidate for Congressional District 5, I’ve addressed the issues that come with federal control of a school system many times, and I’ll address them here. For fifty years Huntsville City Schools has operated under the control of the federal court. When I became Superintendent the School Board asked me to move the school system from “dual status” (under federal control because the court deemed it to operate in one way for black students and another for white students) to “unitary status” (a single system operating in the same way for all students and removed from federal control).”

According to a 2015 release detailing the consent order, the DOJ outlined steps the district was mandated to take as part of its instruction to further desegregate.

The release stated that “professional development” must be provided to educators regarding “strategies for teaching students from diverse backgrounds, understanding implicit bias and supporting positive student behavior.”

“As part of the federal court order, the Department of Justice sought professional development for teachers in culturally responsive teaching,” Wardynski noted. “Culturally responsive teaching means using students’ customs, experiences, and perspectives as tools for classroom instruction so that when academic knowledge is placed in the context of students’ experiences and frames of reference, students learn more easily and thoroughly. For example, rural students from families who have lived in one place for generations will have very different experiences from urban students who are new to their community.”

He added, “Placing knowledge in the appropriate context for each group will aid their learning. Culturally responsive teaching was ordered, not sought out. Until the court emplaced its order in 2015, culturally responsive teaching was not part of teacher professional development in Huntsville City Schools. If critical race theory was addressed by contractors in delivering culturally responsive teaching professional development, it is important to note that CRT was an unknown theory to myself and most Americans until it was featured in “woke” culture beginning in the spring of 2020.”

One of the first reports linking Huntsville City Schools to controversial teachings was in July 2021 when it was reported that the Mountain Brook School System reversed course on its decision to implement an Anti-Defamation League-linked anti-bias training program, which the liberal activist organization confirmed was utilized by 42 schools in Huntsville at the time.

James I. Dawson Elementary in 2013 became the first public school in the district to receive the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” designation.

“As part of implementing the desegregation order, Huntsville City Schools conducted multiple listening sessions in 2015 and every year thereafter,” advised the congressional candidate. “Records of these sessions are provided at the Desegregation Advisory Committee (DAC) website (hsvdac.com). Of note, until the 2021 report, there is no mention of culturally responsive teaching by any member of the Madison County Commission, teacher, parent, or DAC panel. Culturally responsive teaching and critical race theory never surfaced as an issue with the community during my time as superintendent because culturally responsive teaching wasn’t an issue and critical race theory only became an issue after it became the guiding theory for “woke” culture in 2020.”

The Alabama State Board of Education (BOE), in August 2021, passed a resolution banning the instruction of CRT in public schools.

Four months after the resolution’s passage, the Alabama State Department of Education began investigating a complaint filed by a concerned parent after Whitesburg Elementary School teacher training material was revealed in a now-deleted social media post, according to original reporting by Alabama Media Group.

Screenshots of the post that was circulated in conservative Facebook groups appear to show that the 2021 training session included a PowerPoint slide discussing white privilege, the outlet reported. The session contained language similar to that in the 2015 training agenda which indicated that educators reviewed content related to “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.”

“I was the first Superintendent in the federal order’s 50-year history to take steps to bring federal control of Huntsville City Schools to an end,” said Wardynski. “About one-third of school systems in Alabama remain under federal control. While these orders were a federal response to Alabama state laws imposing segregation on school systems in the 1950s and 60s, elected state, county, and city leaders have left it to school systems to deal with the federal courts.”

The former superintendent concluded, “My interest in running for Congress includes serving on the House Judiciary Committee to bring accountability to the federal courts exercising federal control of local school systems. As I have stated during forums and many times in public, it is time to identify an endpoint for this federal system of intrusion into local school systems. Without such accountability, federal court control will persist without end as do many federal programs that were poorly designed and even more poorly equipped to address modern circumstances.”

An additional statement was provided to Yellowhammer News by the Wardynski campaign from Walter McGinnis, who served on the Huntsville City School Board of Education from 2012 to 2021.

The former board member contended that Wardynski “consistently fought” the consent order issued by the court.

“No one has done more to fight the woke left than Dr. Wardynski. An out-of-control liberal judge required this training,” stated McGinnis. “There were at least three community hearings in high school auditoriums regarding this federal control of our schools. Dale Strong remained silent the entire time while Dr. Wardynski consistently fought this liberal judge in court day in and day out.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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