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'Based on feelings, not facts' | Isle of Wight NAACP criticizes newly voted 'controversial issues' teaching policy, including systemic racism

This comes at the same time as the VDOE holds public hearings statewide over the updating of History Standards.

ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. — Leaders with the Isle of Wight NAACP branch are criticizing the adoption of a newly voted-on education policy for the county's public schools.

Last week, Isle of Wight School Board members voted for the adoption of an updated “Teaching About Controversial Issues” policy: a two-page document defining controversial issues as topics that can be viewed from “starkly different but valid” positions.

One of the proposals includes language about the teaching of systemic racism:

“There is no systemic racism or bigotry perpetuated by the United States or any governmental entity.”

“I take it for what it says on the paper. To me, it says that this does not exist, that bigotry does not exist,” said Derek Boone, who is Vice President of the NAACP chapter. 

13News Now also spoke with school board member Jason Maresh on Tuesday, who helped author the redline changes voted through by the board. Maresh said the intent of the policy was not to discredit the existence of systemic racism or racism itself, but its framing in school settings.

Maresh attributed the position to focusing on not allowing political bias in school teachings. 

Opponents of the policy changes at last week’s school board meeting also asserted political motivation in passing the language through in the first place. 

“If you did not mean that, in that statement, then we need to go back to the drawing board. And on record what did you really mean and what is the purpose,” Boone said. 

“We’re not suggesting every rule should be changed because we disagree with someone. We’re suggesting if this is so complex, so bold, then why can’t we sit down in a room to discuss this?” he asked.

When asked if the issues raised by citizens and his belief that there is a “misunderstanding” in the intent of the policy, Maresh told 13News Now he would not oppose conversations in rewording the policy to clear up misunderstanding about its intent.

You can read the full statement from the Isle Of Wight NAACP below:

"The Isle of Wight NAACP supports and stands firm with what is fair, equitable and equal for all students in our county. The new policy of Teaching About Controversial Issues is based on feelings, perspective and not facts. Take for example, “systemic racism” which is letter “F” in the policy. To say that “systemic racism” does not exist lies in the “eye of the beholder.” A teacher can assign an assignment or project to a student in the form of an analysis, and each student will most likely respond based on his or her perspective of life: real, qualitative experiences. A history teacher teaches ALL history; therefore, at times, students may bring up certain issues that are not teacher-led. This policy handcuffs creativity, stifles conversations and gives fear a crown. Are they stating that teachers cannot teach vocabulary or vocabulary in context without discussion? Are they stating that teachers cannot teach rich literary devices that are needed to pass standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT or advanced level classes? Are they stating that teachers cannot teach facts vs. opinions? Furthermore, it creates a narrow path of learning for students when their exposure is only limited to what others consider to be important based on one point of view. When we take away history, we prepare our students with the inability to speak critically about life. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, historian said, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

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