LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Many Arkansans are confused and some outraged by a draft policy created by the Conway school board.
The following graphic has been making the rounds on social media, referencing the draft policy:
The controversial draft states that its purpose is to prohibit the teaching and promotion of critical race theory, divisive concepts, and other forms of government-sanctioned or -facilitated gender, racial, or sexual ideologies in the district and to uphold the foundational American principle that all people are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Much of the controversy stems from the document's broad language.
The document's definition of critical race theory in Section 1 A, clause 2 includes "any theory or ideology that teaches or promotes that social problems are created by racist or patriarchal societal structures and systems."
It's definition of divisive concepts includes in Section 1 B, clause 2 "any concept that espouses that the united states is fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist."
The document goes on to say that "the tenets outlined in Section 1 undermine the free society and sound education and otherwise exacerbate and inflame divisions on the basis of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or other criteria in ways contrary to the unity of the nation, the founding principles of the nation, and the well-being of the citizens of the district."
The punishments for educators in the Conway School District that violate the provisions in the document are, first offense, 30 days unpaid leave for an employee, second offense, termination.
If a school violates the provisions, it will be prohibited from participation in athletic competition or otherwise barred from participation in local or state or athletic activities for a period up to 30 days.
Referenced in the previously shown graphic and most controversial was Section 5 of the draft policy, which states that certain terms and concepts may wholly or partially violate the policy. These terms and concepts include: "multiculturalism," "cultural awareness," "abolitionist teaching," "racial prejudice," "systemic oppression," and "patriarchy."
Board member Linda Hargis said in an email that "it is not up for discussion with the board at this time," when asked if she could officially confirm whether or not the draft policy would be under consideration at a future time.
When asked if the draft policy would be brought up at a future time, Hargis said "not as is."
Board member Jason Sandefer said that the "policy was drafted by the school attorney. We looked at it during a scheduled schoolboard workshop. After reviewing it for 5 minutes (or maybe less) we decided it was not a good policy and we dismissed it and moved on. But, unfortunately, because of FOIA, this policy made its way into the hands of a community member and they shared it as if we are going to implement it. They had no context behind this and the manner in which they shared it incited anger (by some) towards us. It’s unfortunate but this is one of the ways that misinformation spreads. In fact, we’ve said publicly more than once that there was never an intention to implement this policy. But certain people will believe what they want to believe, even if we tell them the facts."
The school district's official email response to questions about the draft policy was:
Policy 5.5.2 was drafted by the district's attorney at the request of the board; however, the board has decided not to move forward with this policy at this time.
It is still unclear if the draft policy will be brought up for discussion at a future board meeting or subject to revision.
We requested the minutes from a Sept. 28 school board meeting in which a policy was discussed with the school district attorney but we were informed by the district's communication specialist that the meeting was not a regular school board meeting but instead a "work session," and no minutes were kept for such meetings.
The next school board meeting will be on Dec. 13.
We will continue to pursue answers to your questions and provide you with updates.