Faculty at the University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law have created a database to identify and record efforts to block critical race theory (CRT) being taught in schools across the country.
The database, called the CRT Forward Tracking Project, allows users to “track attacks on critical race theory” and filter the information as part of an effort to “support anti-racist education, training and research,” according to the school.
The project was created by UCLA’s Critical Race Studies Program, founded in 2000 as the first law school program in the nation dedicated to critical race theory.
CRT, according to the school, is “the study of systemic racism in law, policy and society,” and suggests efforts need to be made to fix these alleged injustices.
Meanwhile, critics say CRT pushes a controversial worldview related to Marxism that analyzes all aspects of life through a racial lens instead of through the concept of class struggle.
UCLA Law announced earlier this month it would track anti-CRT activity through the database at all levels of government across the nation.
“The project was created to help people understand the breadth of the attacks on the ability to speak truthfully about race and racism through the campaigns against CRT,” said Taifha Natalee Alexander, project director of CRT Forward, in a statement.
The database analyzes these efforts to determine where the activity is happening and how opponents are taking action, such as protesting curriculum at the school board level.
It also includes the type of CRT content being restricted, such as a course being taught at a public school, as well as the institution or group being targeted and enforcement mechanisms being used to regulate the content.
For example, the Placentia-Yorba Linda School Board voted to ban the teaching of CRT in classrooms this past April, ending months of debate in the Orange County district.
Prior to the narrow 3-2 vote, supporters for the ban asserted CRT is a divisive ideology that pushes a political narrative. Other trustees at the April 5 school board meeting, however, claimed such efforts amounted to censorship, according to public comments.
The UCLA program claims that many of those who are against these concepts being taught in K-12 schools are using the term CRT “incorrectly,” and have “affected plans to include ethnic studies more broadly for students before they get to college.”
In 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation making ethnic studies a statewide requirement for high school graduation starting in the 2029–30 school year, amid debate among parents and teachers about whether ethnic studies curriculum includes elements of CRT.
As of Aug. 2, the UCLA database has screened nearly 24,000 media articles and identified 479 instances of anti-CRT activity since August 2021.
The database team found this activity is “much more pervasive and extensive than generally reported,” according to the school, with such policies either proposed or enacted in 49 states.
The project also found that most anti-CRT proposals have occurred in Florida, Virginia, Missouri, and the U.S. Congress, while local school board measures make up more than 20 percent of the activity in the database.
Most such measures at the school board level have been introduced in California, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, with Californians enacting five out of the eight proposed measures.
The study also found the most common anti-CRT enforcement measures include withholding funding or issuing fines against individual teachers, administrators, schools, and districts for engaging in “prohibited conduct,” the school says.
Noah Zatz, faculty director of the UCLA Law’s Critical Race Studies Program, is helping to spearhead the tracking project. CRT Forward staff also include law librarians and undergraduate and law school research assistants.
“We need critical race theory to understand this assault on racial justice, where even naming structural racism gets portrayed as unfair to white people. And we need CRT to develop legal theories of education and free speech that not only blunt these attacks but place anti-racism at the center of a democratic society,” said Zatz in a statement.
However, opponents contend that CRT is not needed and does not teach hard history, but is instead an approach to analyzing that history with the intent to dismantle modern systems that proponents claim are white supremacist.
“Those that are upset about proposed bans on CRT in our schools have been misled to think that states that have banned CRT from being taught will no longer teach about Jim Crow Laws, the displacement of Native Americans, or even slavery in America. This is simply not true,” according to a CRT guide written by former California teacher Kali Fontanilla. “On the contrary, banning CRT will remove a dangerous twisting and rewriting of American history.”
The UCLA project is funded by a $400,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation, a private, Indianapolis-based foundation with about $1.4 billion in assets, according to the nonprofit’s website.