Some NC students could soon learn about the LGBTQ movement, mental health reform, among other topics

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina students in grades 6-12 could soon learn about the LGBTQ Movement, mental health reform, and voter suppression in their social studies classes.

Those are a few of the topics included in a set of “unpacking documents” the N.C. Board of Education voted 6-5 to approve on Thursday to support the state’s new social studies standards.

Some of the updated standards focus on teaching public school students about racism, xenophobia, nativism, extremism, and marginalized groups.

It’s up to each school district to decide which standards will be added to the curriculum. The documents approved by the board provide direction, topics, and examples on how teachers can implement the standards.

“One thing that’s nice is that the standards are more thematic, so as we’re making decisions where to spend more time or where to spend less time,” said Lauren Casteen, who teaches high school American History and World History at Durham Public Schools. “Rather than it being a checklist of facts and things and people and places and ideas, there are broad topics for teachers to focus on.”

Teachers like Casteen will have the power to pick and choose which topics to include in their lessons.

“The standards are things I have to hit at some point over the course of whatever the class is,” Casteen said about DPS’ decision to implement the standards. “But I get to decide the route that we take to get there.”

She added, “For me personally, I’ll still be talking about systemic discrimination and gender identity in my classes because it still fits under the umbrella of discrimination and identity.”

Critics says the new social studies standards teach critical race theory, a concept that centers on the idea that racism is systemic and ingrained in America’s history.

“I think critical race theory is a scary term, but I think that concept, teaching that there are multiple kinds of the American experience, isn’t that controversial of a topic,” said Casteen.

She added, “I would be happy to talk to any of the parents of kids in my classroom about what we’re learning the changes to their curriculum and I think most teachers would probably be happy to do the same.”

Public schools are expected to begin using the updated social studies standards this fall.

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