Conservative Group Protests Board Of Education's Culturally Responsive Teaching Standards

Nov 16, 2020

The Illinois State Board of Education next month is set to adopt culturally responsive teaching standards to promote diversity and inclusion.

That plan comes despite concerns raised by a conservative group that defends biblical principles. 

The Peoria-based Illinois Pro-Family Alliance wrote the board last month to ask the agency to drop the proposed teaching and learning standards. Ralph Rivera, the legislative director of the alliance, says the teaching standards violate teachers’ rights to free speech and religious liberty.

He calls language progressive, vague and constitutionally questionable.

“Teachers who have a certain faith or religious view may be being forced to go against that view,” Rivera said. “For example, it states they have to affirm various student ideas or identities. So what if they disagree with that, they can't affirm something that goes against their religious belief.”

A spokeswoman for the Board of Education said it is essential for teachers to reach students from different cultural backgrounds, particularly LGBTQ students who are often subjected to bullying. In an email, she wrote that "more than 52 percent [identify] as students of color, and English Learners making up the fastest growing student population – while our teachers remain overwhelmingly white and female."

The spokewoman declined to speak on tape, but spokesman for the the Illinois chapter of the ACLU defended the plans to adopt the standards.

Ed Yohnka said the new teaching standards will create an environment in which students feel safe to learn.

“That's what schools are supposed to be," Yohnka said. "They're not supposed to be…a place to..protect some issue or some belief of a teacher."