Chambersburg Area School Board calls out News Talk 103.7FM to “get a grip”

CHAMBERSBURG – The Chambersburg Area School Board approved spending $30,000 on a contract for diversity, equity and inclusivity training for educators in the district on Tuesday night and some of the school board members have insisted it has nothing to do with Critical Race Theory.

Although, News Talk 103.7FM has been questioning that for a while.

The district has already taken part in a seminar from A Long Talk 2020, which from their website is an “anti-racism activation experience.”

With the approval of the most recent contract, the $30,000 is coming from the federal money, but is still going to affect the taxpayer in the long run.

News Talk 103.7FM has kept a close eye on these developments and has been vocal in its questions.

All of which prompted School Board President Dr. Dana Baker to say at the meeting on Tuesday, “And no it’s not Critical Race Theory, 103.7, you were wrong. Senator Mastriano, you were wrong, too, in calling this Critical Race Theory on public radio. Get a grip.”

The direct quote clip was played on First News this morning where attorney Clint Barkdoll, Michele Jansen and Pat Ryan discussed the issue.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) seeks to critically examine the law as it intersects with issues of race.

Opponents of CRT say it focuses on the white supremacy and privilege in this country that continues to be maintained despite the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. A number of people worry that it labels all white people as inherently racist and creates a further divide.

One of the biggest issues when discussing CRT is there’s nothing really concrete to point to when talking about this ideology. There’s no class that’s given, no syllabus to present.

It’s the subtle inclusion of its concepts that make CRT particularly complex.

In terms of what’s happening in Chambersburg, Jansen pointed out, “The person that made that comment is the most vociferous member of the school board to insist that Critical Race Theory is not being taught in Chambersburg Area School District. I sent an email yesterday to him and inquired if you’re so positive, can you please explain to me your understanding of what Critical Race Theory is, that way maybe I can be assured that you’re right or maybe there’s something you don’t understand that I believe. He refused to comment. No comment. I found that odd. If you’re so positive in your belief that they’re not teaching it, why in the world wouldn’t you just want to throw it in my face and say look this is what it is and we’re not teaching it. Nope. He wouldn’t do that.”

Jansen continued, “People, you need to contact your school board members because what I discovered in that school board meeting, they don’t understand what Critical Race Theory is. I think there’s a real lack of understanding and I think this is true in the public sphere as well. People see things and they know it feels wrong, they know it’s creating more tension and more problems between people but they don’t know how to define it. It’s been in academia forever and it’s now coming out into the general society.”

The school board meeting on Tuesday lasted four hours.

Ryan added, “It’s all surface-y. This is all surface-y stuff. Nothing gets accomplished in four hours except a whole bunch of pinot grigio – shrimp eaters who don’t get anything accomplished. Four hours!”

Jansen noted, “I will give several of the school board members credit. They really did try. They knew something’s not right. They admitted they got a lot of emails about this. One member tried to dismiss my concerns saying, ‘She just doesn’t want anything to be done about these issues.’ That’s not true. I think, more disturbing, they kind of convinced the rest of the board members, well, let’s just move forward.”

So they did and voted to approve the contract.

Jansen, who was in attendance at the meeting, said. “It was very obvious that some of the other school board members were a little uncomfortable and they do want to understand this better and I really give them credit for trying to mete that out. I wish they really had taken a month to get a little bit more understanding. I’m hoping that even though it’s in place as Dr. Betts (superintendent) said, this is just the start of this process. It doesn’t mean you can’t have any more influence or input on this. I do believe people, all of us, community, educators, school board, administration, we need to understand these things and how they’re impacting us a little better.”

Polls since 2012 say people have deteriorating attitudes on racial problems.

And apparently, 20% of the students in the Chambersburg Area School District say they don’t feel welcome, according to surveys that were taken.

Jansen said, “I really would like to see those surveys and how those questions were worded – it’s actually this theory itself, this ideology, as people get exposed to anti-racism more, they actually start believing they’re less welcome in our society because there are some falsehoods being taught about our history and what’s going on in this ideology.”

Additionally, James Carville, arguably one of the best political strategists in the country, wrote an op-ed piece yesterday warning Democrats to be careful of the concept of wokeness. It’s backfiring.

Barkdoll added, “The clip of Dr. Baker – to me it really does show just this narrow view, what I think likely is a misunderstanding of what’s going on. They could parse this and say there’s nothing on any syllabus or any class schedule that shows a class on Critical Race Theory. And I have a feeling that’s what some of these board members are relying on. They’re saying this isn’t here. We don’t teach this. But, like the seminar that they just approved, we know the seminar from a few weeks ago that we learned about that long conversation seminar, these are textbook examples of critical race theory. I think what’s happening is it’s being incorporated into the district, both through training and even curriculum and I don’t know that some of these board members are aware enough that it’s happening. They just don’t know what it is. When someone brings it up, they instantly say well this isn’t happening here. Well they don’t realize that all of these programs that we’ve been seeing the past few months, it’s exactly out of the textbook critical race theory idea.”

Jansen noted, “To give Dr. Betts credit, he came and spoke with me a couple of times and he said, ‘No they told me, I talked to the people who put on A Long Talk and they told me this is not Critical Race Theory and they’ll explain that.’ No, they did not. The school board doesn’t understand it either. It’s pretty obvious from their questions. I’m not criticizing them for that. It’s a complicated subject. The people who got this A Long Talk 2020 going, they tried to explain the program a little bit, but they never explained what Critical Race Theory is according to their understanding and why it’s not being taught and that’s what I was waiting for. So I put an ask into the superintendent to please let us know what exactly was that explanation so they can say so definitively we’re not teaching Critical Race Theory in our schools.”

The letters sent from Jansen can be found here:

Ryan added, “You wonder why these private schools are bursting at the seams because you’re trying to get your kid an education in English and math, not worried about what’s going on with racism.”