Strict masking policies may have first caught their attention, but now alert parents in one Missouri school district are protesting divisive, even partisan “equity” curriculum, test questions and policies.
As one parent puts it, such “equity” programs come “at the expense of learning.”
The Wentzville School District, about 40 miles west of St. Louis, made national headlines last month when a test question about police shootings went viral. The question, posed to high school students, read: “Teresa has heard in the news about the fatal shootings of unarmed African American men by police officers but does not think it is necessarily due to racism. Teresa is MOST likely a what?”
The choices were: “Democrat, Black Woman, Republican, Democrat-leaning Woman.”
According to the exercise, the correct answer was Republican.
Now the district is facing backlash over a high school assignment called a “privilege walk.” The exercise calls out students for various forms of “privilege,” and has received criticism from parents and students alike.
Lindi Williford has three children in Wentzville schools – an elementary, middle school and high school student. She says parents began raising concerns when the district implemented strict masking policies during the pandemic.
She and others are now rallying against what they believe to be harmful, divisive curricula.
“COVID was a catalyst for the majority of parents who are now active and ready to make changes,” Williford told The Lion. “The masking and quarantine issues woke a lot of parents up. Now, the issue is divisive curriculum.”
Concerned parents have rallied at school board meetings, and some are getting kicked out, says Williford.
“Police have asked us to leave, which really made parents angry. [School officials] just don’t listen to us, and rarely respond to emails,” she said. “Parents are vocal and showing up at school board meetings – but the board takes no ownership or accountability.”
One of Williford’s concerns is the district’s $200,000 equity education program, which she says comes at the cost of core learning.
“The data shows that it costs over $11,000 to educate a child in our district,” Williford said. “And yet students’ proficiency levels in core subjects are less than 50%. What does this say about our schools? The results aren’t good. Private schools locally spend less than that with better results.
“This is taxpayer money funding these equity programs at the expense of learning. When we speak to the school board, it falls on deaf ears. It doesn’t feel like the board is listening. Parents want things to change.”
Williford says she did not consider herself an advocate until the district’s pandemic policies became extreme. Now, she is rallying other parents to speak out.
“It’s important to bring attention to this. Our board president was very angry that we brought national attention to these issues. But when the board doesn’t listen to its constituents, you have to go beyond them.”