South Burlington School District’s Orchard Elementary School used a curriculum titled “Reading to Raise Anti-Racists – Year Two” to teach reading to the school’s Pre-K through fifth grade students. The curriculum rationale states that if schools “want to change racialized systems, then we have to deliberately engage kids in dialogue about the complexities of race early on in their development.”
As part of the justification for the curriculum, the school cites the Learning for Justice article “Teaching Kindness Isn’t Enough,” which begins by stating that Dr. Seuss books present racist ideas. Instead, the district curriculum uses “picture books as a springboard for meaningful, transformative, conversations about race because when we ‘read race’ we are helping children develop the skills to see the world through a critical race lens.”
According to an article in ASHE Higher Education Report titled “Critical Race Theory in Higher Education: 20 Years of Theoretical and Research Innovations,” the authors define a “Critical Race Lens” as one that “necessitates that although such spaces centralize the needs of marginalized students and celebrate these narratives, they must also simultaneously address the manifestations of power and privilege rooted in hegemonic discourse.” According to authors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic in Critical race theory: The cutting edge, they state that “CRT aims to use literature to form social protests and political movements against racism through a critical race lens.”
The books used in the curriculum were chosen because “they feature Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color (BIPOC) as the main character, they avoid stereotypical portrayals of BIPOC” and “they help us gain understanding of people whose racial, cultural or gender identity may be different from our own.” The school’s hope is that “as a result of engaging in this school-wide reading and conversation, students will be inspired to become active anti-racists and ask questions like ‘What can we do?’ or ‘How can we change that?’, as they fight for racial justice.”
The March unit features a book titled “Call Me Max” by Kyle Lukoff, which is about a transgender student struggling with gender identity in elementary school. The listed resources for the unit include The Gender Wheel Pronoun Protocol, videos from the YouTube channel Queer Kids Stuff titled “No More Gender Roles” and “T is for TRANS!,” as well as a link to the video “Woke Read Alouds: It Feels Good to Be Yourself” from the channel Woke Kindergarten.
Another book used in the curriculum, titled “Intersection Allies: We Make Room for All,” includes the lesson plan “Guided Anti-Bias/Anti-Racist Reading” from the website “Reading is Resistance.” According to the site, the book features friends supporting each other through their allyship by “holding signs that say: ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Trans Lives Matter,’ ‘Love Wins,’ ‘Say Her Name,’ and ‘Ally.'”
The South Burlington School District contracted with the Pacific Educational Group, LLC. to perform professional development for district staff. The district paid the consultant $5000 in November 2021 and an additional $10,000 in December 2021 for “Virtual Training.”
According to a May 14, 2021, district document, over “130 SBSD teachers, administrators, and staff” completed the racial equity consultant’s “Beyond Diversity I” training. Per a version of the professional development program, the training includes participants completing a “White Privilege Exercise” and comparing their scores with a “person who is racially different than you.”
The training continues by having participants examine their “whiteness.” The document states that whiteness includes “Individualism” and “color-blindness;” while the end goal is to move from these stages of whiteness to “De-Contextualization” and “Anti-Racist.”
The multi-day training features “Some Aspects and Assumptions of White Culture in the United States,” which includes things such as “self-reliance” and “individualism,” justice “Based on English common law” and the protection of property, “Hard work is key to success,” an “Emphasis on Scientific Method,” “Plan for future” and “Delayed gratification,” and the “Nuclear family.”
In addition, the district states that administrators, including the Superintendent and all district principals, “successfully completed “LEADS (Leadership for Racial Equity)” training. The associated document from the Pacific Educational Group features seminar sessions that include participants learning about Critical Race Theory and how to apply it.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
The district also states in a May 14, 2021 document that teachers at Orchard Elementary “looked at how adopting the Black Lives Matter Guiding Principles could positively impact their school’s climate and culture.” The districts “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” page titled “Black Lives Matter” includes a large swath of resources, including the activist organization’s “Kid-Friendly” version of the “13 Guiding Principles.”
The district’s webpage “Understanding White Privilege and Whiteness” also features various resources including Learning for Justice’s “What Is White Privilege, Really?” and “Why Talk About Whiteness?,” Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” the “Seeing White Podcast” and accompanying study guide, and the promotion of the book “Not My Idea” with a link to a corresponding YouTube video.