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Bill Opposing Critical Race Theory Clears Idaho Senate

The dome of the Idaho Statehouse at sunset with an American flag and Idaho flag.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

State senators signed off on a bill Monday that critics say would prevent teaching social justice concepts in Idaho classrooms.

The proposal, which was introduced just last Wednesday, would withhold funding for K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, if they compelled students to believe a certain viewpoint.

Senators fast tracked the bill, which had passed out of committee less than an hour before they took it up.

Supporters have said Idaho’s children are being force-fed critical race theory, which is a concept that views institutions like the U.S. justice system as structurally racist to marginalize non-White people.

Teachers, students and school administrators have repeatedly said those concepts aren’t being taught in schools on a systemic level.

“It was a huge, as we felt, a slap in our face to point fingers at us and say we’re indoctrinating kids,” said Andy Grover, executive director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators.

In his 13 years as a superintendent in the Melba School District, Grover said he received three complaints surrounding indoctrination. Two, he said, were unfounded, and the third was taken care of by the local school board.

“There’s a lot of these processes that are already in place.”

Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville), one of the sponsors of the bill, said he doesn’t think that Idaho schools are indoctrinating kids with critical race theory or other social justice concepts. Instead, Crabtree said he views the legislation as a proactive step.

“We’ve always heard the term prevention is the best medicine. Well, this is what the thinking of the legislature is, is to prevent a problem,” he said.

But Rep. Steven Thayn (R-Emmett) said his granddaughter told him she was taught critical race theory as a senior in high school and that the teacher was pushing his views on students.

“I don’t think it’s just a boogeyman. I think it’s something that’s important we need to talk about,” Thayn said.

“Critical race theory, though we’re not debating that topic specifically, tends to undermine the notion that people are individuals responsible for their own actions,” he said.

Just one man spoke in favor of the bill during Monday’s committee hearing.

The rest, including students and educators, said it would have a chilling effect on teachers from including critical points from history in their lesson plans in case they cross a line and jeopardize their school’s funding.

Shiva Rajbhandari is a third-generation Idahoan whose family is of Nepalese descent. The Boise High sophomore called the bill “government censorship.”

“Idaho is nearly 90% white. Members of the [legislature] hate people who look like me so much that they will do anything within their power to hide the history of oppression that people of color have experienced.”

Sonia Galaviz, a fifth-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary in Boise, said she’s shocked this issue is coming up while educators have had to adapt their classroom to the pandemic.

“I’m flummoxed that I would have to stand before you now and ask you not to sanction schools based on misinformation, false narratives and a tragic misunderstanding of how schools and educators actually teach in general,” Galaviz said.

One Republican, Sen. Dan Johnson (R-Lewiston) joined all seven Democrats in opposing the bill, though not because he agrees with critical race theory.

Instead, Johnson said he disliked specifically enshrining the concept, which isn’t defined in the bill, into Idaho law.

Several Democrats said they were concerned about the precedent it set as a bargaining chip to dislodge several education budgets that the House has neglected to act on for several days.

The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration.

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!

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