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Former District 49 Superintendent Ron Wynn, left, addresses the board of education during a meeting Thursday night.

A Colorado Springs-area school district is one step closer to approving a measure that could have a significant effect on the way history and race relations are taught in its classrooms.

District 49’s board of education voted late Thursday to move forward with a written resolution to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in its schools.

The board voted 3-2 to move the resolution forward, though a final vote won't occur until next month. Board members John Graham, Ivy Liu, and Rick Van Wieren voted in favor, and Kevin Butcher and Dave Cruson voted against.

More than two dozen community members, teachers and parents gave impassioned arguments for and against the teaching of the theory during a 90-minute open forum. People in favor of banning the theory said it fosters division, teaches young people to hate America, and absolves people of color from personal responsibility.

“Everyone should be taught that they are equal, and (critical race theory) does not teach that,” said Linda Scott. “When you live in America, you have an equal opportunity to succeed. Children need to hear that, and not that they’re oppressed.”

Opponents of the resolution argued that it supports teaching an edited version of American history to kids.

“Our students deserve to know the history of our country – the good and the bad,” said former District 49 superintendent Ron Wynn. “By teaching (the theory) we can better understand the mistakes that were made in the past, so that we don’t make those same mistakes in the future.”

Several people took issue with the board’s working definition of critical race theory, which it adopted from Edweek.com. The definition reads, in part, “The core idea of CRT is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

“You began your resolution with a definition of (critical race theory) from Edweek.com that looks like you didn’t understand, nor did you keep reading,” said a district parent.

Critical race theory, in part, examines the way America’s racist past affects current policies and systems. But one board member suggested that institutional racism is a relic from a bygone era.

“We keep talking about systemic racism, which I don’t believe exists,” Liu said. “If you look across society right now, we have many successful people of all colors. How does that compute with systemic racism and (the idea) that the whole country’s set up for the success of only white people?”

The board is accepting input on the wording of the resolution until Aug. 4. If no changes are suggested, the measure, in its current form, will be put to a vote during the Aug. 12 meeting.

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