Parents of Montana’s Bozeman Public Schools (BPS) were successful in removing terms like “equity,” “privilege,” and “oppression” from the district’s “equity policy,” but BPS officials promised that “we have been, we are doing and we will continue to do equity work in Bozeman Public Schools.”
School officials appear to have begrudgingly passed the resolution, dubbed by some to be a “race-neutral ‘student success policy,’” as they believed the language was “watered down.” Despite that, officials are promising to charge forward with the equity movement, even without the language they desire.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, interim Superintendent Casey Bertram said they removed the controversial language merely to “reduce polarization,” but that in reality the “equity work” will continue in BPS.
“So yes, we removed the term from the policy to reduce polarization,” he said. “But hear me clearly, we have been, we are doing and we will continue to do equity work in Bozeman Public Schools.”
The policy had been controversial because of public outcry over the aforementioned phrases being closely connected to critical race theory. As Breitbart News has reported, given the emergence of critical race theory as a major political issue, institutions that wish to implement it may surreptitiously refer to it by other means, or camouflage it behind phrases like “culturally responsive teaching” — which uses the same CRT acronym — “culturally competent,” “social emotional learning,” “anti-racist,” and “equity.”
Other members of the school board of trustees echoed Bertram’s decision to drive forward with the equity initiative but appear to believe that, without the requisite language, the policy will not go far enough.
The Chronicle reported Trustee Douglas Fischer said the district’s removal of the equity terminology is proof that “systemic inequity and systemic racism” exist and must be addressed with a more strongly worded policy.
“We have said over and over that words matter but yet here we have an equity policy without the word equity in it,” he said. “It troubles me.”
Trustee Tanya Reinhardt, meanwhile, “wanted people to know there was racism and bigotry in Bozeman,” according to the Chronicle, saying, “I am frustrated that there are people in this community who do not see the darkness. It is in the corners.”
“When we shy away from having those tough conversations,” she continued, “we let that darkness grow.”
Both Fischer and Reinhardt support the reintroduction of equity terminology into the policy. Despite that, Fischer said that the current policy, even in its exclusion of the phrasing, is an example of “where we say one thing but kind of mean another and say trust us.”
“Disappointed” by the “watering down” of the policy, Trustee Lei-Anna Bertelsen said, “Providing the kind of language where teachers can feel supported to do that is an important piece to [the] puzzle” of teachers being able to support students.
Seventeen-year board member Trustee Gary Lusin said that while he does not “consider it an equity policy” but rather a “student success policy,” he also promised that “to apply this policy, put it in action in the classroom will require diversity, inclusion and equity.”
One member, Trustee Lisa Weaver, appreciated the removal of the “extraneous words that have become divisive,” noting that “the people who are supporting the removal of the equity language are not supporting racism.”
Some Republicans and others opposed to critical race theory are considering the removal of the language a win. Ryan Zinke, former secretary of the interior under President Donald Trump and former U.S. House member from Montana who is currently running for Congress again, said on Facebook that the changes were a “big win,” continuing, “Never get between mama bear and her cubs.”
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) called the removal of the language “great news.”
Great news—Don't mess with Montana parents! https://t.co/MUc9EGqEQR
— Matt Rosendale (@RepRosendale) December 14, 2021
The equity policy has been in front of the BPS school board for months, having been tabled in June after public backlash.
Adding fuel to the fire, one public commenter used their time to yell a racial slur, which some board members used to prove that Bozeman is, in fact, a racist community and therefore the language of the policy needs to be stronger, according to the Chronicle.
“The day we bring up talking about the equity policy, that someone hijacks Zoom and uses a racial slur. I go back to our in-person meeting when many people showed up at the Gallatin Auditorium insisting that Bozeman’s not a racist community,” Bertelsen said. “And yet it’s hard to sit here on the board as the one person of color, to hear racial slurs and to be told that racism does not exist in our community. It’s harmful.”
Bertram, for his part, launched an investigation to try and identify the person or persons involved with the incident, saying, “We are saddened and appalled by the behavior of the individual/s who used the public comment process of our Zoom webinar meeting to spew nonsense and to utter racial slurs.”
In May, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (R) issued a binding opinion, saying, “‘Critical Race Theory’ (CRT) and so-called ‘antiracism’ programming in many instances is discriminatory and violates federal and state law.”
“Committing racial discrimination in the name of ending racial discrimination is both illogical and illegal,” Knudsen said. “It goes against the exceptional principles on which our nation was founded and has no place in our state.”
Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.