Lake Havasu City schools aren’t using controversial curriculum dealing with race -- and board member Nichole Cohen wants to keep it that way.
Cohen asked her fellow board members on Tuesday to consider banning the use of the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project as well as “any Black Lives Matter or anti-racism curriculum” in Havasu classrooms.
School officials say the curriculum is not being used by Havasu teachers and isn’t being considered for future use.
Still, Cohen had support from many in the audience, which included State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, who warned that the “BLM narrative” is being pushed at the state level.
“Black Lives Matter is a Marxist organization that has one purpose and one purpose only, and that’s to overthrow the government,” Borrelli said. “They want to replace you parents through the education system, through indoctrination… This is coming.”
The 1619 Project is an initiative from The New York Times Magazine that launched in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery, according to the publication. The stated goal of the project is to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
Cohen said she believes the publication would present students with an inaccurate version of American history.
“It’s not a good thing to teach students, as The 1619 Project does, that we were founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy,” she said.
The board didn’t take any action on Cohen’s suggestion, instead voting 3-1, with Cohen dissenting, to end the discussion because no curriculum is being considered by the district for use in classrooms, according to Director of Educational Services Brad Gardner.
Gardner explained that standards are adopted and discussed at the state level, and curriculum used to ensure those standards are met is decided on and controlled at the local level. Gardner oversees the district’s curriculum, as well as the adoption process of new additions suggested by a committee, which includes educators.
“Our role is to teach students to think critically about history, about what’s happening in their world,” Superintendent Rebecca Stone said. “We do teach them how to think, but not what to think, and I think that’s the concern.”
Cohen said her request was a response to a letter sent to the board by a former student, identified as Kambrea Soltero, a graduate of Lake Havasu High’s Class of 2012. In the letter, Soltero said she believed Havasu schools had “fallen short” in teaching students about racial injustice and violence.
The letter was circulated online and signed by “LHUSD alumni, current students, current and former educators, parents and community members of Lake Havasu City.”
A petition was also attached to the letter, which Board President Lisa Roman signed.
“To me, I viewed it and still viewed it as, more or less, customer feedback,” Roman explained. “If someone came back and said, ‘I recognized and identified these deficits in my education, and I ask you to consider filling in those gaps,’ I would at least want to listen and look at what that person had to say. It doesn’t mean I would agree with everything… But to me, a letter like this merits at least a look and a listen.”