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After weeks of discussion, anticipated social studies decision no longer on agenda for Garfield Re-2 school board

Rifle High School is over 50% Latino. Community members say the American Birthright Standard, a conservative social studies curriculum, does not represent Garfield Re-2, which is growing more diverse.
Garfield Re-2 School District
Rifle High School is over 50% Latino. Community members say the American Birthright Standard, a conservative social studies curriculum, does not represent Garfield Re-2, which is growing more diverse.

A much-anticipated discussion about a new social studies curriculum for the Garfield Re-2 school district is no longer on the online agenda for Wednesday’s school board meeting.

The district is choosing between the Colorado Department of Education’s 2022 adopted standards, a revised version of those standards, and a controversial conservative curriculum called the American Birthright Standard.

American Birthright has been rejected by the National Council for the Social Studies for its “outdated language” and “clear political agenda,” and rejects “so-called anti-racism” and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The district held a series of meetings over the past couple of months, in order to get public feedback on the three options, and put together a committee made up of volunteers from district families, community members, and educators.

The committee met three times over the past few weeks, plus an extra fourth meeting for volunteers who wanted to help put together a presentation for the school board.

They were set to make a recommendation to the board during its Wednesday meeting, and the board was expected to vote on the curriculum standard then.

“We came to the conclusion that the state standards were the best option,” said Ashley Stahl, one of the volunteers on the committee. “83% of the committee agreed. And only one person listed the American Birthright as their second choice. Everybody else had it as their last choice of the three.”

A draft version of Wednesday’s presentation confirms that number.

Stahl said committee members received an email from a district employee saying the item was removed from the agenda after school board president Tony May found out about the result. She declined to share the identity of the district employee. May has been a vocal supporter of American Birthright, and has said he would not vote to approve the Colorado 2022 adopted standards, even if they were recommended by the committee.

However, Stahl commended district staff, including the curriculum directors and superintendent Heather Grumley, on their nonpartisan and engaged approach to the process.

“They made an effort to intentionally question our sort of perspectives coming in,” she said. “We looked at things in terms of values instead of specific positions.”

Though the curriculum discussion is no longer on Wednesday’s school board agenda, Stahl says the committee hasn’t received any official communication saying its presentation is off.

A spokesperson from Garfield Re-2 confirmed the agenda posted online was correct, and said the superintendent and school board president cooperate on the agendas for meetings, but declined to share any further information, or specify who made the decision to cancel the social studies discussion.

The spokesperson also said the agenda could be modified at the beginning of the meeting if a majority of board members agree to the change.

School Board President Tony May has not yet responded to Aspen Public Radio’s request for comment.

Wednesday’s meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. at the district offices in Rifle. It’ll also be available to watch on Zoom.

Caroline Llanes is a general assignment reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering everything from local governments to public lands. Her work has been featured on NPR. Previously, she was an associate producer for WBUR’s Morning Edition in Boston.
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  • Garfield Re-2 school district has been holding a series of community meetings as it considers a possible switch to the American Birthright Standards. The social studies curriculum was created by the Civics Alliance and endorsed by school board Vice President Tony May. Education journalist Erica Meltzer of Chalkbeat Colorado has covered the issue in detail as some schools are considering the standards.