Questionable Curriculum: Elmbrook School Board Tables Controversial Equity Non-Negotiables That Resemble Critical Race Theory

Elmbrook Parents Speak Up To Earn Major Victory But Wary Critical Race Theory Is Already In The Classroom


June 16, 2021

By Abbi Debelack

Thanks to the hard work of concerned parents in the Elmbrook School District and their persistence in face of repeated obstacles, the administration’s divisive equity principles were removed from the district’s strategy map. Elmbrook parents have been working tirelessly over the past few months to hold the School Board and administration accountable for what is being taught in the classrooms and for the use of Critical Race Theory in curriculum. 

At a school board meeting last week, board members voted to table the district’s proposed equity principles. These principles — formerly called equity “non-negotiables” — were buried in the District’s Strategy Map. The Elmbrook School Board voted 6-1 to table the equity principles until after the new school year kicks off in September. In the meantime, the administration will brainstorm ideas to address the concerns of the community and board. 

Emily Donohue, a parent from the district who has been actively monitoring the actions of the School Board, was cautiously optimistic about the result but is still concerned about the direction the district is heading. “It is clear there is a disconnect between the administration and the school board,” said Donohue. “Mark Hansen and Dana Monogue engaged ICS (Integrated Comprehensive Systems For Equity) in 2012 to close achievement gaps and to create a more inclusive learning environment. However, our achievement scores and students’ sense of belonging have declined, a clear indication that ICS’s critical theory isn’t successful in solving these problems. Our board needs to demand the administration implement proven methods to close the gap and improve culture at the individual school level.”


Elmbrook’s Equity Statement & Principles. Source: Elmbrook School Board


Elmbrook is just one of many districts across the state that is attempting to implement an equity statement into their district strategy. Equity Non-Negotiables or Equity Principles are guidelines for school districts to abide by, not open to interpretation or modification, that seem to commit the school district to focus on equity, Critical Race Theory (CRT), culturally responsive teaching, or one of the many euphemisms for CRT. 

Critical Race Theory preaches that the United States was founded on racism, grew to become the successful nation that we are today because of this racism, and that our country is still fundamentally defined by our racism today.  CRT believes that racism is found in everything that we do and that we do not do. While our schools should give students a full and complete look at our history, looking at our nation’s history through such an extreme and biased lens as Critical Race Theory is concerning.

At first blush, Elmbrook’s equity principles sound well-meaning and beneficial. But the problem with the term “equity” is that it is the complete opposite of one of the founding principles of our nation, equality. Equity pushes every American, no matter their ability, work ethic, or moral fiber, to end up achieving the same result. Rather than providing struggling students with the assistance they need based on their academic track record – regardless of race – schools that use equity frameworks appear to hand out resources to students based solely on their race and, in some cases, do away with merit-based learning. That is a dramatic and profound change in how we educate our children.

Multiple school board members expressed their hesitation to vote for these equity principles because of how vague they were worded and the uncertainty of how they would be implemented in the actual classroom. 

Some board members seemed to suggest that the controversy over the equity non-negotiable and Critical Race Theory was really just a big misunderstanding. Board Member Glen Allgaier said, “It’s like we’re speaking two different languages. One group thinks we’re doing Critical Race Theory, and the other group thinks that the people that feel that way are racist.” Board Member Jennifer Roskopf stated that she believed these principles were not Critical Race Theory and that more work needed to be done to explain this to concerned parents in the community. 

Board President Scott Wheeler said “I don’t believe in Critical Race Theory and I don’t think it belongs in our schools… I want to again reiterate that the Elmbrook School District will not be teaching Critical Race Theory.”


Honors Biology Presentation in Elmbrook Schools


Despite this rhetoric from the board, we have evidence that Critical Race Theory is present in Elmbrook classrooms. As MacIver has previously reported, in a Freshman Honors Biology class at an Elmbrook High School, students were given a presentation discussing race and identity. This presentation accompanies the students’ assigned reading of the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The book “tells a story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we’re made of.” While the book itself does address biology and human cells, it is clear the focus of the accompanying presentation is on equity and race issues, rather than science.

Despite this victory, parents opposed to Critical Race Theory know that there is still a long road ahead of them. While the equity principles are off the table for now, it is clear the district will be returning to them in the months to come. 

Concerned parents will need to keep watch and continue to express their feelings about Critical Race Theory in the classroom.

Be sure to follow along as MacIver continues to follow instances of Critical Race Theory across the state.