In a newly surfaced video, Senate President Stuart Adams admits that critical race theory is not very common in Utah schools. But he said Utah Lawmakers are going to tackle the topic in the 2022 session anyway.
The politics of teaching race and racism in Utah’s classrooms hit a fever pitch earlier this year as school officials, parents, advocacy groups and Utah lawmakers grappled with the controversy of critical race theory, which is an advanced academic concept that says the history of the U.S. is directly linked with racism. The concept is not currently taught in Utah’s schools.
In the video, recorded at the Council for National Policy’s 40th Anniversary Meeting in May and posted on Twitter and YouTube, Adams, R-Layton, responded to a question about how state legislatures are handling corporate blowback from laws targeting cultural issues like abortion and transgender athletes participating in girls’ sports.
He said someone had texted him an article referencing Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell’s displeasure with a pair of resolutions opposing the teaching of critical race theory approved by the Utah House and Senate just one day earlier.
“When you get very popular sports stars like that that are pushing back, we’ve got work to do to try and educate them. Let’s go tell him what we’re doing because I don’t think he really understands what happened,” Adams said.
In May, the GOP-controlled Legislature pushed Gov. Spencer Cox to include a bill to ban critical race theory in Utah’s schools on the agenda for a special session but he declined to do so. In response, the House and Senate independently passed resolutions opposing the concept.
Mitchell drew the ire of some Republicans when he waded into several social issues, including critical race theory. Mitchell is part of a coalition of NBA players, coaches and owners who plan to push lawmakers in several states to address social justice issues.
In the video, Adams admits that despite the furor surrounding the issue, it’s not much of a problem in Utah. He adds it won’t stop lawmakers from tackling it in the 2022 session, though.
“It is a problem. It’s not something that we’ve seen a lot in Utah, but it’s a big issue and we’re going to deal with it,” Adams said.
Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, says he plans to bring legislation next year to ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” in the classroom, which could include race and racism.
In a text message statement to The Tribune, Adams said the resolutions passed by the House and Senate were the result of a process that took several ideas into account.
“We adjusted the resolution to reflect input from constituents and stakeholders to focus on three concepts, which I believe we can all agree on: That no curriculum or instruction materials should include, that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another race, that an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race, or that an individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race,” Adams wrote.
Adams also pointed out the resolutions tasked the State Board of Education to work on rules for teaching about race and equality in the classroom.
“The legislative process worked. I appreciate everyone participating. The more information and input we receive, the better policy outcomes,” Adams said. “As lawmakers, we need to better explain policy that was passed to make sure individuals are aware that we listen to feedback and work to have bills reflect what we are hearing.”
Correction • September 8, 1:40 p.m. This story has been updated to clarify the video of President Adams was recorded at the Council for National Policy’s 40th Anniversary Meeting in May.