Battle over how to teach race and racism in America’s schools

ABC News’ Terry Moran takes an in-depth look at the new anti-racism curriculum in some schools across the country, and the backlash to these changes.
7:53 | 05/05/21

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Transcript for Battle over how to teach race and racism in America’s schools
We turn now to a battle playing out in schools across our country many educators are rethinking how race and the roots of racism in this country should be tackled in the classroom. Some critics say that the so called woke movement that has gone too far especially when it impacts their children. ABC's Terry Moran examines this growing flashpoint. Schools in America are supposed to be places where dreams are born and our children learn to reach for them together. But today more and more of our schools like so many other places in American life had become battlegrounds. Where the adults are fighting each other furiously over issues of identity power and the meaning of our history our children are taught. In schools you hate their own country. Did you believe that the men and women who build good. We're not heroes but that we're villains. As president Donald Trump with characteristic bluster and exaggeration stoked the controversy in the schools. He made a local schools on national patient. We will stop the radical indoctrination. Of our students and children and least dog patriotic education. Two hours. So. What is really happening in our schools I think there's a lot of mythology and rumor and confusion. So that people are arguing about things. That it. They are not actually clear on what's happening. Particular bunch Smith is a former New York City school teacher and now executive director of the center on culture race and equity and Bank Street College of Education. She helps schools and other organizations implement equity policies and practices. This is really time it thinks you. Think about ultimately what kind of world do I want to live and it what kind of the world to my children deserve to live and. And that's an urgent goal in today's America about how we get there is bitterly dividing school communities bringing a long simmering conflict to full boil. There is stepping over fixation. Inception. With based. On the New York City could be tariffs aren't even reading we should level. Dot insure his mama ten year old would tend to New York City public school an immigrant to America from Taiwan. And co president of place and why seat that's an advocacy group. Chu thinks this is not where the school's focus should be. It is using a lot of what's unions are during the classroom with discussions about race. But that's me problematic. Then there's the fight over what and how kids are taught about social justice and equality and the conceptual tools some schools are using to do that. It's called critical race theory critical race theory is not a bad word although it may have been demonized. Umps for political reasons the reality is it's about equity it's about justice. President Chubb actually banned critical race theory from being used by the federal government and racial sensitivity training for federal employees. Students and our you know years. There are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist up. Holding that America. Is a wicked and racist nation. So what is it. There's no strict definition of critical race theory but basically it's a reformist theory that supports a redistribution of power in institutions. By exposing racism and acting to eliminate it's about making sure that every single child gets to Friday. And beat fully human in everything that they do. Advocates point to data they say revealed the scope of the racial disparities in our schools I've 2019 report found that 44% of white eighth graders were deemed proficient at math. Compared with just 14%. Of black students and 20% of Hispanic students. It'd 2016 report on disciplining practices in schools. Found that black K through twelve students are three point eight times more likely to receive out of school suspensions. Than white students. Do you attribute. What happened in your kids' lives to racism either implicit. Unconscious. And vetted or otherwise. Absolutely it is a matter I'm kinds is biased. Pastor Michelle Thomas is a mom of three in Loudon county Virginia and the head of the local NAACP. Her kids all went to public schools. Michelle says she had to fight to get her daughter on up into an advance science program even though she had the requisite grades and scores. Are you and great Kia. It couldn't be an Anglo. In. I'll Imus classes but her money. And asked what about our. All of the money is at work what about how her Father's Day at work at don't have attacked the don't fight game don't have the you know Tim predicted CA and can't get out the bad news integrating. Opponents of this kind of training they say your by focusing on race. It's divisive it's making people more conscious of it and therefore more racist. If you had cancer and did math focused on you'll dash. Racism is a cancer this killing America. But critics call all that just woke this run riot and in New York city's Tony private schools were to wishing for grade schoolers can top 50000 dollars a year. The battles over it are getting pretty crazy. And some parents are speaking out at the Riverdale country school in the Bronx children are being Ty. T see each other. As defined by dared by their skin color by and gardening is an investor in new York and co-founder. Of the foundation against intolerance and racism which advocates against CRT based education. Bargaining who describes himself as half Mexican native American and half Jewish. Took his two young children out of Riverdale when he learned about the equity curriculum they didn't look. Deep enough they they didn't really stop and say well is this really achieving our goals. Bargaining says his foundation already has 20000. Members from across the country parents concerned about the impact of these new ideas on their kids will be cattle. Whole bunch a little kids who are holds from a very young age that they are defined by their skin color. And that you're gonna end up with a society where every these tribal and everybody. It's racist. Our students are not living in a colorblind society. Scott ziglar is interim superintendent of the Loudon county Virginia school board outside Washington DC. More than 80000. Public school students. And here to race and justice in the schools have divided families with social media threats actually triggering a criminal investigation. Ziglar taught history for seventeen years before going into administration. And his viewer this swirling controversy and is simple. If I start making decisions based on what adults want what adults need missed the mark you've got a group parents who have from. We'll who got very angry about these efforts. And there they're accusing you of political correctness of trying to impose an ideology. On their children. And that's not what we're about I'm I'm here to do the best that I can for students my students are telling me. That there having racially charged incidents in our schools. And that tells me I need to do something about that. And pastor Michelle Thomas she's an optimist believing that all the struggle and debate over these issues will in the long run. Help the country. We have a great opportunity to elevate. Education. And the humanity and his citizenship. Olive black student. For ABC news live from I'm Terry Moran in Loudon county Virginia.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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