Derrick Wilburn, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives, made national headlines this month for an impassioned school board meeting address prior to the district outlawing critical race theory (CRT). Behind the effort is Ivy Liu, the board director.
Liu, who served in the U.S. Navy and has volunteered in churches for 30 years, was elected to the Falcon School District 49 board in April. She prepared the anti-CRT resolution with board secretary Rick Van Wieren. As an Asian-American and mother of five, she felt obligated to outlaw what she saw as blatant discrimination of people based on the color of their skin.
“D49 will not use principles of Critical Race Theory (as described below) as a curriculum for classroom instruction,” the resolution states. “With this statement, D49 reiterates that: Neither schools, nor instructors, shall assign individuals or groups of students to participate in class or complete assignments based on their racial identity. Schools shall not engage in racial bias or stereotyping.”
The vote was 3 to 2, with board president John Graham backing Liu and Wieren’s initiative. El Paso County, where the CRT ban passed, is tilting to become a moderate political region. While 66 percent of residents voted Republican in the 2004 presidential election, that number was 53 percent in 2020. The board is nonpartisan.
I spoke with Liu to understand the resolution’s backstory, which comes amid controversy across the United States regarding academic freedom and what role the government should have in education.
Equally as vital, how will the new policy be enforced in a district of more than 22,000 students? Here is what she said in our interview on these and other related topics.
Liu told me several times in the interview she speaks for herself and not the board.
How Did This All Begin?
As soon as I came on after being appointed, CRT was very much a topic that was brought to my attention by emails to the board. The topic has been a consistent topic of concern and input from the parents who have become very active in our community.
[I did] extensive research. Knowing there are always two sides to every story, I looked on both sides. If you read one side, you will think you’re reading a totally different topic when you get to the other side. I read everything from the right to the left.
How Did You Become Convinced To Ban CRT?
Because of what it really stands for, the pitting of one race against another. It’s basically a doctrinal principle. Except it is slightly different from other countries where Marxism has happened and failed. The destruction of any country happens when they pit one wealth class against another.
But we don’t have 12 wealth classes in America, and that in itself is a big contradiction of CRT. So what do they do? They step into race—races—pitting races against each other. It’s a similar doctrinal principle to divide the country so they can just destroy it.
What Was The Process Like Of Preparing The Resolution?
We sat down extensively, and you can only talk with one board member at a time, that’s the Board of Education rules. He [Van Wieren] and I worked a lot on it from various people’s inputs and checking and guarding—being very careful because we knew this was going to be a very hot topic. We wanted to make sure we had everything lined up. We checked and triple-checked our resources. I’ve even gone and read Ibram X. Kendi’s articles.
Now, I want you to know, this is the work of a collaboration with several people.
Is CRT Already In The District?
We do know there are teachers who believe in it. We don’t know that it’s being taught. And now that we have a ban in place, we know it’s not going to be taught, and that’s very important.
People have asked me, ‘Well why do we need to have this in place?’ It’s like any other policy and guidance that a board will put out for any topic, so people know where to tread.
How Will The Ban Be Enforced?
It’s a policy. It’s guidance. It’s a way of life that is a principle that the district will operate on. No one is going to overstep it because it’s a way of life. That’s how I see the CRT ban.
We will not teach anything that might even come close to it—but we’re not accusing anyone of doing it. It is just like the No Child Left Behind Act. They’re not accusing anyone of leaving children behind. We’re not accusing anybody—and that’s one of the things opponents use. We’re setting out a policy just like you would any other policy.
Is This A Democrat Versus Republican Issue?
I don’t know whether this is a right or left issue but I do know there are definitely strong opinions on both sides of it. And it is not [going] to be resolved because whatever definition [of CRT] you decide to hold onto decides what side you take. And no one seems to want to listen to the other side.
What Repercussions Will There Be For Dissenters?
We don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet. We hope that doesn’t happen. And we’ll deal with it when it comes.
We have people that love teaching. They love kids, they love the district. We put the policy in place because it’s good organizational management practice. We put good guidance in place.
What Was The Community Reaction Like?
After the ban, we had such a rush of thank you’s from the parents. It was very rewarding. Not that that’s what we’re doing this for. We weren’t doing it for kudos, we weren’t doing it for recognition. We were doing it to prepare the district for the goal of excellence in education.
We did know the community supported it based on input in meetings in public forums, social media, and, of course, emails. We knew we were doing what the majority of the community wanted.
We did know there were a handful of people who hated [the ban]. But the community pays the salaries of the administrators. We don’t get any pay. We were elected to represent the community, so we have to do what’s right for the community.
I’m seeing a level of engagement in the district that I have never seen before when it comes to any issues, except for when it comes to issues with mask mandates. It was a huge validation that we stood up for the people.
What Is Next On The Docket?
The word was put out to the entire staff and community through D49 communications. We’re just going to let that rest for now.
I’m sure there will be some talking points when certain things come up. If things come up involving this issue, then we’ll address it as a board. We put forth a hot-topic policy, and we will go from there and keep a close watch.
It’s my job to see what’s going on in the district and see how we can make it better.