Parents in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD in North Texas have found critical race theory and programs using its terminology are being taught in their schools, even as district officials deny it.

In 2013, GCISD created the Diversity Advisory Council, which is meant to “promote diversity and inclusion by suggesting strategies, activities and educational resources.”

GCISD’s Diversity Advisory will facilitate the district’s mission by contributing to the purposeful education of staff, students, and community members in developing and maintaining a school climate that promotes tolerance, respect, safety, and self-worth.

GCISD parent Tirzah Spencer spoke with Texas Scorecard about a DAC meeting she attended on April 1, where attendees watched a video titled “5 Steps of Being An Ally.” The video detailed five tips on how to be an “ally” to a person from a marginalized group. When asked how it made her feel, Spencer said she “had a sinking feeling accompanied by the realization of how far things had gotten out of hand in our district.”

A training offered to GCISD teachers in 2019, titled LEAD From Where You Are, also featured several trainings sprinkled with CRT.

One such presentation was titled A Taste of Theory It was described as “exhibiting the incorporation of multiple critical perspectives into teaching to serve not only as lenses for the reading of literature, but as tools for discovering, interrogating, and challenging #injustice *hypocrisy and the #hiddenpowerrelations that students are likely to encounter.”

This training focused on a variety of literary theories. Some were more political in nature, like the theories of “gender lens,” “social class lens” (which is associated with social theory from Karl Marx), as well as the “critical race lens.”

Page 33 of the presentation defines critical race theory.

Another training, Breaking the Barrier_ Talking About Our Differences, was made available to teachers by two GCISD administrators, Dr. James Whitfield and Jessica Ramos-Jones.

The presentation defined privilege as “a special right, advantage, or immunity, granted or available only to a particular person or group.” After describing different privileges, the presentation posed the question, “What privileges have you had in life thus far?”

The presentation concluded with book and podcast recommendations, including the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

GCISD has bought into more than just trainings that contain divisive theories. Texas Scorecard has obtained invoices that show GCISD paid several companies that support the tenets of critical race theory.

The district paid more than $33,000 for the BrainPOP program, which has been criticized by a Louisiana teacher, Jonathan Koeppel, in a viral video.

Koeppel explained to Texas Scorecard, “CRT can be found everywhere these days: liberal teachers that harass children, educational programs, websites used in class for ‘research,’ and in assignments that are given by teachers. If you look hard enough, you will probably find it somewhere. I happened to see it being presented to young children through an online program used in schools called “BrainPOP.” This caused me to speak out and let parents and school board members know that CRT is already in our school systems.”

The district also paid Panorama Education $30,000 for access to their platform on social emotional learning (SEL), as well as a survey for their students. On this survey, students are asked about their feelings, anxiety, how they cope with school, and being friends with others of a different race.

Tirzah Spencer said, “I started noticing a lot of things in our district when the kids went remote last spring. Since they were home, I could now see what they were seeing on their screens. Some of the videos on BrainPOP seemed a bit off. … They’d start with a normal lesson, but then they’d find some weird way to weave a political agenda into it.”

She grew concerned when her child was losing academic class time to social emotional learning curriculum.

“I first started looking into the SEL curriculum when my child told me her teacher was showing counseling videos during core class time,” she said. “This made no sense. With the academic struggles of all of our kids since COVID started, I just couldn’t believe the district would authorize taking class time away for that.”

The district, however, claims CRT is not used in their curriculum. GCISD spokesperson, Kristin Snivley, told Texas Scorecard, “The curriculum used in GCISD does not include instruction on critical race theory, nor does it ever mention the theory.”

The District does not provide training from our curriculum and instruction department regarding critical race theory. … In GCISD, we have a diverse student population, with 59 home languages spoken. It is important that as educators we engage in conversations regarding how to support all students throughout their entire educational experience in GCISD.

The parents of GCISD are working to keep citizens informed. Through their website, they inform GCISD parents and local citizens about what is going on in the school district.

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.