Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions 

Frequently Asked Questions

As a district, we strive to teach students how to make informed decisions through critical thinking and reflection and the study of historical and current events. Please see the frequently asked questions below for more information about what is and is not included in our lessons.

  • Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a phrase that is frequently mentioned in the media and public conversations. CRT might have a specific meaning to one person, while others might believe it is entirely different. But the most basic purpose of Critical Race Theory, which originated in the 1970s, was an analytical tool for law students to examine the impact of historical and present-day racism on the legal system and public policies. Currently, CRT is primarily used by higher education in the study of law, psychology, and sociology.

  • The Penfield Central School District is not teaching Critical Race Theory. Our curriculum is based on the New York State Standards, and Critical Race Theory is not part of the standards or our curriculum. The tenets of CRT are not part of social studies or any other learning standards in New York. The state's Social Studies Standards can be found on the New York State Department of Education’s website K-12 Social Studies Framework. The work we are focused on in the District will be aimed at strengthening equity and inclusive practices. We want all students to feel a sense of belonging and connectedness to our schools. 

  • Culturally responsive-sustaining (CR-S) education is an approach that emphasizes using cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for all students. (CR-S) education is grounded in a cultural view of learning and human development in which multiple expressions of diversity (e.g., race/ethnicity, social class, gender, language, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, ability/disability) are recognized and regarded as assets for teaching and learning.

    For years, our curriculum in Penfield has been rooted in the New York State Standards – and it still will be. The Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CR-S) Framework brings together the New York State Learning Standards, the NYS Framework for Social Studies, the Social Emotional Learning Framework, and the Social Justice Standards, particularly identity and diversity. In education, we often feel like we have too many initiatives. CR-S is all-encompassing and is not another initiative but rather a framework for educators to use as they develop curriculum and lessons to ensure the culture of our students is being incorporated within. 

  • As a District, we value Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The focus of DEI is to ensure all students have the access and opportunity to receive an equitable education and are provided the resources they need to allow for their success. 

    Diversity: Includes but is not limited to race, color, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, veteran status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, genetic information, and learning styles.

    Equity: The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all while striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of all groups.

    Inclusion: Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/ policy making in a way that shares power and ensures equal access to opportunities and resources.

  • Educational equity is a K-12 term referring to federal and state policies and requirements. Specifically, the term is closely associated with "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) legislation that was led by former President George W. Bush and signed into law in 2002. This federal law established clear requirements for school districts to disaggregate student achievement data by race and close achievement gaps where they existed.

    In recent years, the terms Equity work or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have become commonplace in K-12 education. Many districts revisit and renew their local efforts to close achievement and opportunity gaps as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). When signed into law in 2015, ESSA further advanced equity in U.S. education policy by upholding protections outlined in NCLB, including calling for comprehensive state-developed plans designed to close achievement gaps, improve the quality of instruction, and increase outcomes for all students.

  • Racism has no place in any school building in our community. Every district is seeking to create an environment that supports every single student, and yes, challenges racism wherever it exists. This is one way we will teach our children – the future leaders of our communities – that until something is faced, it cannot be overcome.

    We will be developing our own culturally responsive lessons based on the CR-S Framework below to ensure K-12 integration and implementation into our curriculum. I encourage you to review this framework to gain a better understanding of the goals of these lessons. The briefs offer the main concepts in a series of short reads, while the Framework link is to the entire 64-page document. 

    NYSED - CR-S Framework Briefs - The purpose of the briefs is to highlight the important concepts of the CR-S Framework as an introduction for educators, administrators, parents/caregivers, community members and students. 

                NYSED - Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework  

    As a community, we have an awesome responsibility to embrace and demonstrate respect for the safety, well-being and inclusion of all social identity groups (i.e., race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability/disability, socioeconomic background, religion) that we serve in the Penfield Central School District. 

  • Sex education is not part of DEI instruction. In August 2019, New York State became the 37th state to sign Erin’s Law into legislation. New York State’s law, (Chapter 187 of the Laws of 2019) - known as Erin's Law - requires public schools to teach child sexual abuse and exploitation prevention classes to students in kindergarten through eighth grade. This Erin's Law is named for Erin Merryn, an abuse survivor and activist against child sexual abuse who has advocated for similar laws nationwide for over a decade. Erin’s Law is intended to help children, teachers, and parents in New York State schools identify sexual abuse, and to provide awareness, assistance, referral, or resource information for children and families who are victims of child sexual abuse.  In Summer 2020, work was completed with organizations that researched, developed age-appropriate grade bands and found multiple resources to help school districts develop curriculum and useful lesson plans to implement Erin’s Law.  

    Please see the NYS Ed site to view the following grade band curricular benchmarks that have been developed to help assist schools and districts implement Erin’s Law. Under the following grade band benchmarks are resources for schools and districts. These are suggested resources as all curricular programming and instruction are locally determined. 

  • This approach comes from a belief that our diversity is what makes us strong. And that by truly celebrating what makes each student unique, we build the confidence of each student that their perspective and their experiences are valid and valuable. It also makes it more likely they will better understand each other’s perspectives. Our goal is that they value their peers for who they are – their whole person. We believe this better understanding of each other will actually lead to a community and a nation with less division, and more respect for differences.

    In the past, schools often felt the best way to respect students with different experiences and backgrounds was to avoid direct discussion of these differences. But what we have learned is that this can actually make students feel invisible, and like their perspective isn’t as important as those being addressed in classroom discussion. But when we celebrate those differences – in age-appropriate ways – all students feel seen, and like their perspective has worth. When this is done well, it can create deeper, more authentic relationships in the classroom.

  • Any teacher or school that makes any student feel bad or guilty about themselves is doing a poor job of creating the environment we want - where every student feels valued. It would be in direct conflict with the concept of culturally responsive education to do things, say things or teach things that made any student – White, Black, Hispanic, Native, Asian – any student – feel badly about themselves.

  • America is one of very few countries in the world where critical evaluation of our history is accepted and valued. That is one of the things that makes America strong. None of us wants to live in a country where dissent, or questioning of authority is not tolerated. As students get closer to adulthood, school is a place where they can learn more about the history of our country and our community – a safe place to try out their own perspectives on these issues. When we are doing this work well, schools will be a place for exploration of many perspectives, consideration of many different points of view and respectful dialog on challenging topics. That is what we are seeking, and we need the support of the whole community in achieving it.

    We all have biases, often shaped by our life experiences – this is as true today as it ever was. It also continues to be true that we will support our teaching staff with ways to help guide discussions that are respectful to all participants and perspectives.

  • We appreciate your interest in your child’s education, and parent engagement is an essential priority for each district. If you do have questions, we recommend starting as close to the source as possible – your child’s teacher. This will allow you to better understand what is happening in the classroom. If you still have concerns, your next step would be to contact the building principal, who can help you understand any next steps. If you have concerns about the Culturally Responsive Sustaining Education Framework or other state-provided resources, you can reach out to the Office of Curriculum and Instruction at