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Critics Have First Chance To Comment On Idaho Indoctrination Task Force

Janice McGeachin wearing a white jacket and red shirt is surrounded by supporters right before she announces her bid for Idaho governor.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, right, shortly before greeting a crowd on the steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise as she announces her bid for governor in 2022.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s education indoctrination task force took public comment for the first time Thursday.

Comment was nearly even among supporters and opponents, but this was the first time critics were allowed to speak during the task force’s meetings. Students, professors and community members blasted the panel.

The task force, which has no authority or power under Idaho law, has claimed for months with little evidence that teachers across the state are brainwashing kids with social justice concepts.

Boise activist and high school student Shiva Rajbhandari had a pointed message for McGeachin and the task force’s co-chair, state Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird).

“You won’t succeed in silencing student voices. You won’t succeed in bringing Idaho back to the 1800s. You won’t succeed at abolishing public schools as the [Idaho Freedom Foundation] aspires,” Rajbhandari said.

Wayne Hoffman, president of the influential lobbying group, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, said in a 2019 op-ed, “I don’t think government should be in the education business.”

But the Idaho Constitution is clear: “The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

One task force member, Laura Van Voorhees, who moved to Coeur d’Alene just a few months ago from California, described critical race theory this way:

“It’s about ushering in communism and that’s the ugly word that a lot of people don’t want to hear, but it’s the absolute truth,” Van Voorhees said.

A Treasure Valley man, who said his name was Eric Gironda, said he grew up in the South. Comments like Van Voorhees’s, Gironda said, were the same ones made by the Ku Klux Klan about the consequences of desegregating schools.

Mikayla Dunn, a conservative activist who is Black, said critical race theory is “perpetuating the lie that I’m oppressed,” calling it “the new Jim Crow.”

“Anyone who supports [critical race theory] is an enemy to all people,” Dunn said.

After a nearly five-hour meeting, task force members adopted several recommendations for Idaho legislators.

Those include strengthening laws banning critical race theory in the classroom and diverting money from public schools to pay for private tuition or homeschooling.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!