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Mars Area School Board Bans Teaching Critical Race Theory, Passes ‘Patriotism Amendment’

The Mars Area school board unanimously approved an amendment Tuesday night that would prohibit teaching critical race theory in classrooms, making it one of the first districts in the region to make such a change.

Board members did so by approving a “patriotism amendment” to the district’s mission statement.

Tuesday night’s revision will require all of the district’s buildings and classrooms to display the American flag. It will forbid teaching concepts that cause people to “feel guilt or anguish to persons solely because of their race, sex, or religion” and affirms that the district will not “indoctrinate students in a single social, or political, ideology or theory.”

“Patriotism is not controversial. Period,” said Dayle Ferguson, the board member who introduced the proposal.

But while supporters say the amendment will encourage students to be engaged and patriotic, those who don’t want the amendment say it’s unnecessary. Mars area parents who spoke out against the amendment said the controversy and concern around critical race theory does not match the reality of what is taught in classrooms.

Tuesday’s change was made even though critical race theory – which understands racism in the United States as systemic, rather than an individual issue – is not taught in the Mars Area School District. The theory has become a catchall term often used by people opposed to social justice or diversity efforts in schools.

“These patriot statements Mars is considering making part of their mission statement are items that are already addressed in curriculums across the Commonwealth,” said Mars resident Jennifer McAfee.

Seven board members voted in favor of the amendment and two members were absent.

Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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