Social-emotional learning will take center stage at Thursday’s Colorado Springs School District 49 board meeting after one board member invoked the words of Adolf Hitler to criticize the programming.
Ivy Liu shared the controversial quote to a private Facebook page and called on parents to fight back against SEL’s teachings, a stance she has since doubled down on. The post drew ire from community and board members alike last week, with some calling for Liu’s resignation.
“‘He alone, WHO OWNS THE YOUTH, gains the future.’ Adolf Hitler,” her post reads. “Fight back the Critical Race Theory (CRT) concepts that are deceptively hidden in many of the latest Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs from CASEL.org. Not all SELs are bad but some are insidiously programmed to do just what our enemies intend.”
The curriculum focuses on educational equity by helping students “develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others,” among other objectives, according to CASEL.org. Proponents say SEL is a positive way of developing people skills and managing one’s own feelings, thus decreasing violent behavior, depression and anxiety among young students.
Critics such as Liu, however, say the curriculum is a waste of money at best, and a subtle form of indoctrination at worst. The district should instead focus its attention and money on reading, writing and arithmetic, she said.
"The FB post about Hitler that was escalated disproportionately was in my opinion an attempt to silence me from sharing the information about the harm of some SEL," Liu wrote in a statement to The Gazette. "The whole idea of the post was to NOT repeat history. Every murderous dictator in history has used children to advance their tyrannical and evil agenda, including Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, and Mao."
The board will review an executive summary of costs associated with SEL or character and cultural education programming in District 49 schools. The board will also act on an education transparency policy as well as regulations prohibiting instructors from teaching the principles of critical race theory, a resolution first adopted in August 2021.
An executive session will precede the meeting, in which the board will receive legal advice “in social media posting and regarding board options for enforcing policy and cultural compass expectations by individual board directors,” according to the agenda. Executive session meetings are not open to the public.
The special meeting comes in response to Liu’s post, which board members John Graham and Rick Van Wieren allege was one in a series of “inflammatory issues” she has caused.
In a Nov. 3 email shared with The Gazette, Van Wieren asked Liu to resign from her position.
“Your absolute lack of self control in your social media posting, complete lack of integrity in using aliases, and extremely poor choice of words to inflame the passion of your followers has done nothing but hinder any true progress in helping the kids of D49,” Van Wieren wrote. “The only way I can picture things really getting better for the district is for you to resign, and let someone who is actually a team player complete the term.”
Liu is expected to “retract or clarify” her Facebook post at Thursday’s meeting, according to board president Graham.
The public is welcome to attend the 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Creekside Success Center at 3850 Pony Tracks Drive.