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Louisiana's top school board voted Wednesday to push back action on proposed social studies standards from December to January.

State education leaders have delayed action on new social studies standards a second time amid off and on complaints on how the benchmarks would present the nation's racial history.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted Wednesday to extend the public comment period through Nov. 30.

The portal at the state Department of Education – www.louisianabelieves.com – was supposed to be open for comments through Oct. 31, with a possible vote by BESE at its December meeting. The issue is now set for board review in January and may be delayed again.

Hearings on the change were stopped for two months earlier this year after a gathering that featured charges the standards would inject critical race theory – the view that racism played a dominant role in the nation's history that continues today – into public schools.

State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said he would oppose any such effort.

But race-related complaints and others resurfaced when the Louisiana House Education Committee took up the issue earlier this week.

Katie Alexander, who lives in Baton Rouge, questioned some of the vendors used in crafting the new standards.

"There is an agenda to promote critical race theory," Alexander said. "In some cases not subtly."

Jennifer Carignan, who lives in Covington, said Western Civilization will suffer if the focus is world history and that Black figures like 1936 Olympian Jesse Owens deserve study.

Christy Haik, of Baton Rouge, told the committee that students cannot learn racial harmony by teachers suggesting "that one race is superior to another or by suggesting that our country is fundamentally racist."

A steering committee endorsed the changes 19-1 on Sept. 28.

However, concerns about the changes continue to circulate, including whether citizens have had enough time to make their views known.

The September gathering when the benchmarks won approval was less contentious than the July meeting that lasted five hours.

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Diane Moore, who lives in Slidell and has taught history in both public and private schools, told lawmakers the new standards "will make students ashamed of their country."

Moore said it would be a mistake to begin a high school U.S. history course in 1898, and omit how American ideals unfolded. She also criticized one proposed standard for fifth graders to "analyze historical events from the perspective of marginalized or underrepresented groups."

Laura Huber, director of the state branch of Concerned Women of America, said the standards should include a focus on the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and differences between a republic and a democracy.

Huber, of Abita Springs, said "progressive education elites" are pushing for citizen activism over content knowledge.

The steering committee included teachers, higher education officials, school district leaders and parents.

Two groups – one for K-5 students and one for grades 6-12 – worked since March to come up with the revisions.

Brumley, a former social studies teacher, has said the benchmarks need more rigor and that history should be taught in a more orderly fashion.

The superintendent has not taken a stance on the proposed new standards but is expected to do so before BESE votes.

Aside from quickly agreeing to extend the public comment period board members have not discussed the recommended changes for social studies.

The hearing Monday focused mostly on how the new standards came about, and even House members who have voiced concerns about the standards steered clear of any controversy.

State education officials are supposed to collect the public comments, and will likely recommend changes to those recommended by the steering committee.

The current benchmarks took effect in 2011 and are supposed to be updated every seven years.

Why the delay occurred is unclear.

The new guidelines are scheduled to be in place for the 2023-24 school year.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.