Editor’s note: This letter was submitted by Dr. John Combs, director of the Tipton County Schools system, after rumors spread via social media that Critical Race Theory was being taught in the district. 

Dr. John Combs

If memory serves, it was Socrates who said, “When the battle is waning, slander becomes the tool of the uninformed.” I’m afraid that’s exactly where we have found ourselves after some recent social media posts regarding the curriculum in the Tipton County Schools. Therefore, I offer some points of clarification…

There is no Critical Race Theory book in our repertoire. I’ve seen this post multiple times now and it’s simply not true. If you ask your children if they’ve studied from this book in their classrooms and they say they have, then please share that feedback with your child’s principal so the statement may be investigated. I’m confident that no such book is used in the Tipton County Schools.

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Within a similar post, curriculum was shown and purported to be that used by all Tennessee schools. Again, this is incorrect. While the curriculum shown may be used in other school systems in Tennessee –the excerpts were not from the reading series Tipton adopted. It’s unsettling that our first instincts seem to be to “spread” rather than “confirm”.  The post was readily shared with others to pass along and “like” without another thought to its authenticity.

As a point of information, a process outlined by the State Department of Education is used to select textbooks and instructional materials for our classrooms. Not only do we follow that process, we also select our textbooks/materials from a state-approved list. Using anything else would require a waiver from the Commissioner herself. I would encourage anyone who has concerns regarding our curriculum to contact your State Representative and ask for additional clarification on how any instructional materials made their way onto that state-approved list. Our local Representative, Debra Moody, also serves as Chair of the Education and Instruction Committee, so she might be a valuable resource.

Additionally, prior to adoption of the textbooks and materials approved by the State that we will use, the Tipton County School Board publicizes a time for review of new curriculum by parents. This would be another good time for parents to review textbooks in addition to the times they are made available for parents to peruse at their children’s schools.

New legislation passed through both the Tennessee House and the Tennessee Senate as recently as a few weeks ago. This legislation will restrict what content is allowable in curriculum. Some have referred to this legislation as the “CRT Bill”, although CRT is not specifically mentioned in the legislation. Since the Governor has recently signed this legislation into law, the Tennessee Department of Education has let us know that they will be sending guidance our way on how to navigate next steps. To be blunt, we haven’t a clue as to how this new process will be undertaken by the TDOE. We do know, according to the legislation, that the Commissioner of Education has been granted authority to withhold funds from school systems who are found to be in violation. Tipton County Schools has no intention to be in violation.

I know this may come as a shocker, but don’t believe everything you see or hear on social media. Misinformation is out there and sometimes it’s purposeful…and that’s unfortunate. Again, if you have questions, I encourage you to reach out to your child’s principal.

Lastly, thank you for enduring this year of uncertainty with us. I’m thankful for such a dedicated group of educators, parents, students, and elected officials who have helped us stay in school when many systems around us weren’t able to do so. Our kids need to be in school … technology is great, but it doesn’t replace the interactions gained between a student and a teacher.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.

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