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School letter gives ‘opt out’ option of teaching Black history; superintendent calls it ‘unauthorized’

LATEST: Superintendent Emily Tracy issued a statement Thursday afternoon: “Earlier this week a letter, unauthorized by Brown County Schools, was released to elementary school families erroneously advising our students and parents that they could “opt out” of certain instruction regarding Black History Month. To be clear, our District does not permit students to opt out of history lessons—including ones based on historical injustices. We apologize for the confusion caused by the letter and offer our assurances that Brown County Schools is committed to providing an inclusive educational environment for all students and families.”

Below is coverage from News 8 on Wednesday, Feb. 16. The video is also from Feb. 16.

NINEVEH, Ind. (WISH) — A letter was recently sent home to parents of students at Sprunica Elementary School in Nineveh, giving them them the choice to opt their children out of lessons on Black history and on “equity, caring, and understanding differences.”

Diane Favors has a grandson at Spurnica.

“History is history,” Favors said. “I think a lot of stuff is learned at home; racism is learned at home.” 

Favors says she was surprised to see the letter. She believes it’s important for kids to understand all of history.

“If you didn’t want your child to hear [about Black history], they were just going to take [it] out,” Favors said.

Brown County Schools provided I-Team 8 with a statement that was sent to parents and faculty:

“A message recently went out to the families of one of our elementary schools related to lessons on equity, caring and understanding differences taught during the month of February. The message identified an option to opt out a student. We are gathering more information on the matter. In the meantime, know that we support teaching about the facts in our history including historical injustices. Our District is and will continue to be committed to having compassion for all and supporting an education community that will allow all students, staff, families and community members the opportunity to feel welcome.”

“I question whether those letters go out every time there is a lesson to be taught,” Barbara Bolling-Williams, president of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP, said. “Nobody would opt them out of math, would opt them out of science. Why not?” 

Bolling-Williams says not teaching Black history will create holes in a child’s education.

“What is going to be their perception when they meet a person of color?” Bolling-Williams asked. “When they interact with a person of color? When their boss is a person of color?”

I-Team 8 followed up with the Brown County school district to ask if they would be getting rid of the opt-out option.

“We do not allow students and parents to opt out of required curriculum, including instruction on social studies and histories. Any decision related to parental consent and curriculum determinations are made in accordance with the law,” Emily Tracy, Brown County Schools Superintendent, said in a statement. “We are looking into the matter to determine the justification for the language included in the letter.  We will respond to any parental concerns on an individualized basis.”

Favors says that without proper education on history, there’s a risk of the traumatic parts of history repeating themselves.

“I think it’s important that all of the kids understand that,” Favors said. “That is history and it was wrong and if we don’t correct that, it’s going to continue on forever.”