'We are the last defense for our children.' Parents raise concerns over CRT in Williamson Co. Schools

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Posted at 9:43 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 00:04:33-04

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Williamson County parents heard from past and present educators, as well as other parents who spoke out against critical race theory in schools at a Critical Race Theory 101 event.

It was put on by the group Moms for Liberty at the Factory in Franklin Wednesday. The tag line of the event was "Time for parents to go to school on the battle for their children in Williamson County."

Father and filmmaker, Robby Starbuck, moved to Tennessee two years ago after he says his children’s California elementary school began teaching critical race theory. “So naturally, as good parents, we pull our kids out of school and we move to Tennessee," he said speaking to the crowd Wednesday evening.

Now, the Franklin resident said he’s reliving the experience. "We've sort of been messaged this idea that if you even stand up against an issue like this there's something wrong with you."

Starbuck was one of several speakers at CRT101. They ranged from educators to parents speaking out against critical race theory, which they say is present in Williamson county schools curriculum.

"We had spent nine weeks on civil rights and reading and analyze stories about evil white people victimize black people," recalled one mother about her son's reading assignments.

Encyclopaedia Britannica defines critical race theory as an "intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans."

Another speaker, Dr. Wenyuan Wu, said, "the doctrine inspired by CRT represents an existential threat to our indivisible nation. Ideas have consequences."

Organizers displayed petitions and what they cite as CRT in Williamson County classrooms. For their part, the district denies teaching it in schools.

"We don't have in our standards critical race theory and I'll invite folks to look that up," said Superintendent Jason Golden.

For his part, Starbuck has removed his children from Williamson County Schools. "We are the last defense for our children. I trust parents to make the right decision. Not a school district and not a teachers Union," he said.

The group Together Nolensville released statements regarding the work of the Williamson County School Board, saying it "supports their efforts and commitment to intentionally improve the school environment for students of all races and ethnicities." The group released a collection of statements about the school system and its teaching - a couple of which are listed below:

"Williamson County Schools provide a top notch education for the students in the district. That education should include preparing all students to live in a diverse country and a global society, as college and career environments will in all likelihood look very different than the bubble that is Williamson County,” shared Audrey McAdams, a mother of three children attending a Williamson County elementary school. “If history is to be taught, then all of it should be, no matter the difficult subject matter. This will foster empathy, not division. It’s a road map of what not to do and what to be aware of. I understand there are concerns of what is appropriate for elementary age children to learn about regarding desegregation and the Civil Rights era. My rebuttal is: what a privilege it must be for one to feel they have choice on when to educate their child about racism. As a mother to Black children, I don’t have that luxury.”

"As a parent of a Nolensville High School rising senior, I’m speaking out against the disinformation spread by groups that seek to divide and scare us,” said Jason Mikel, local Pastor. “I’m speaking out because I want my son to know about the racial history of our country and how racism still exists today in the fabric of our culture. I want him to know about the Tulsa Massacre, the Fort Pillow Massacre, red-lining, voter intimidation, the genocide of native peoples within our borders, and the brutal truths about slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, hatred, and bigotry and how it still produces the powers of racism today. I want my son to know this so when versions of the same are encountered in his life, he will know how to stand clearly and firmly against it. Despite those who would speak otherwise, as a community, we need to speak honestly about the past so that we can move together toward understanding, mending, and reconciling as we educate our children.”

The Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill at the end of the legislative session to withhold funding from public schools that teach about white privilege. Though it does not specifically name critical race theory, supporters cited it during the legislative debate, according to the Tennessean. It is now headed to the governor's desk for his signature.