Not ‘core academic issues’: Horne cancels educator presentations on trauma, social emotional learning

By Yana Kunichoff || Arizona Republic

Julie Lillie was thrilled when her presentation for an educator conference hosted by the Arizona Department of Education was approved last fall. The former classroom teacher and literacy coach turned consultant would get to speak about an issue close to her heart: culturally relevant and trauma-informed tools to support students.

Then, in January, she got a message saying her conference session was canceled. She wasn’t alone. Other presentations on racial trauma, gratitude, creating a culture of care, diversity and equity skills for school leaders and family engagement were also removed from the agenda.

Republican Tom Horne returned to leading the Arizona Department of Education in January, promising to eradicate teaching on diversity and equity and eliminate the use of social emotional learning in Arizona schools.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, a national non-profit credited with developing the concept of social emotional learning, describes it as a tool to help young people regulate their emotions, establish and maintain relationships, and show empathy for others — all skills the organization says are essential to learning.

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The Horne administration considers social emotional learning, diversity, and equity to be Trojan horses for critical race theory, an academic concept examining how race impacts U.S. institutions that some conservatives use to characterize any race-related instruction. Horne, during his campaign to replace Democrat Kathy Hoffman as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, declared “war” on critical race theory.


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January 2023