CHAMBERSBURG – (Updated 7/12) Parents and stakeholders in the Chambersburg Area School District are not sure whether they can believe proclamations from the district’s superintendent Dion Betts and school board president Dana Baker that the district is not teaching Critical Race Theory – a neo-marxist theory that teaches that America is inherently oppressive and systemically racist – after a national pledge to teach CRT recently came to light that included a teacher from CASD.

The controversy over CRT in the district began at the end of April when the district’s superintendent and school board strongly disputed that CRT is being taught or even that teachers were being trained in its concepts.

Steven’s Elementary School principal Tom Knepper explain that the training that was questioned, called “A Long Talk 2020,” was not CRT, but he highly recommended it for helping educators understand issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

At the June 22 CASD school board meeting, Betts backpedaled on the training saying he can’t help what one employee [Knepper] likes. Betts claimed the district has changed its plan since then, and when asked to describe the new plan, said they “haven’t had much time to work on it.”

Meanwhile, Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12, which provides special education, adult education and other services to local school districts, recently received a $30,000 contract for ongoing Equity and Inclusion Consultation and Management. Right to Know request responses obtained in May from LIU 12 indicated “A Long Talk 2020” training was made available to teachers this summer, and the IU suggested teachers could use flex time, indicating they could be paid to take the training.

And then just this week a list of teachers who signed a public pledge to further the teachings central to CRT, sponsored by The Zinn Education Project, a national progressive liberal education initiative, included the signature of a fifth grade Head Teacher at CASD’s Andrew Buchanan Elementary School.

The pledge itself states that laws, known commonly as anti critical race theory laws,being passed in many states around the country are prohibiting the teaching of the “truth” that the United States was founded on slavery, and that it is built on systems of structural racism and oppression which define the characteristics of society, not only historically, but continuing today. The teachers pledge to keep teaching this “truth” despite these laws, and that they will seek “collective solutions” and support “the power of organizing and solidarity”.  

It’s difficult for many to understand why a teacher at CASD would feel the need to sign such a pledge if the concepts of CRT are not a part of the training and education in the district and this along with the mixed messaging from the district and unclear current plan for addressing diversity, equity and inclusion is leaving parents and stakeholders with many questions on this nationally controversial issue.