Students Against Racism: The student-run anti-racism club formed in Flemington, New Jersey challenging its school district
The club hopes to combat racism as Critical Race Theory faces scrutiny nationwide.
A New Jersey school district, Hunterdon Central Regional, a 42-minute drive north of Trenton, has approved a student-run anti-racism club at Hunterdon Central Regional High School.
The club goes by the name “Students Against Racism,” and intends to enact anti-racist efforts in an attempt to bring about positive change for all students.
The Hunterdon Central Regional board of education recently approved the new club, as first reported by Tap Into, an online news site local to Flemington, NJ.
Robert Richard, the chair of the Student Life & Program Committee for the board of education, said that future goals for the incoming school year include initiatives that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The board of education approved the club in July of this year.
Edward Brandt, the Hunterdon Central dean and principal, shared that the club “[aims] to create an interactive safe space for students to openly discuss racism issues through conversation, sharing of experiences, engaging with school [staff], and working together toward positive change.”
Brandt also said community service will be an important aspect of the club’s mission.
The Hunterdon Central board of education also recently approved new student affinity groups, including the Latinx Alliance, the Black Student Union and the Asian Students Alliance in the past year.
The board of education also formed Hunterdon Central’s new Racism, Equity and Diversity Committee.
Despite these efforts, the discussion around racism has been difficult one for the school district to have with its community and within its own ranks.
When asked if the school intends to teach Critical Race Theory, the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffrey Moore said he is “a bit confused about what it means to teach it.”
“If there are folks who are concerned about Critical Race Theory or anything along those lines being taught, I would suggest they really dive into the district’s equity, racism and diversity website,” Moore said.
The website Moore referenced can be found here.
It lays out initiatives the school has for promoting diversity, equity, and anti-bias training.
However, the district faced controversy for the same anti-bias training.
“According to this training, [my kids] are white supremacists with white privilege,” one Flemington resident said. “They are not, they do not have white privilege.”
The bias training in question was recorded and can be viewed.
School board vice president Noelle O'Donnell supported Moore’s opposition to Critical Race Theory.
“I am very much opposed to Critical Race Theory training as I believe it does have a Marxist connotation. I believe it sets up America to be a divisive, hate-filled nation. No nation can survive with such hate-filled and race-filled fixations and pronouncements,” said O’Donnell.
While her analysis of Critical Race Theory was shared in an open forum, some of the notions imparted are reductive of Critical Race Theory’s seemingly nebulous characteristics.
Britannica offers a definition for Critical Race Theory:
“Critical Race Theory [is an] intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour,” reads Britannica‘s definition.
The teaching of Critical Race Theory is an opportunity being stripped from many teachers who find the topic of race important. In some states, violators now risk losing their teaching license.
While some argue that Critical Race Theory is graduate-level, and thus incapable of being taught in schools before college — as expressed by board member Dr. Jeff Charney — there are ways to teach about racism by means acceptable for younger students.
Graduate-level educators who have studied Critical Race Theory, other related fields, can be best-equipped to assist younger students in understanding racism.
To consider the loosely-organized framework in a classroom setting, educators are not required to reach graduate-level discussion, and can instead indirectly utilize their knowledge of the theory, and other graduate-level frameworks, to reach younger students in a communicative, effective manner.
While many stray away from discussions on race in classrooms below college level, the formation of Students Against Racism gives Hunterdon Central Regional students an opportunity to discuss racism in a productive and educational manner on their own.