McGeachin’s inbox: What she’s hearing on critical race theory and indoctrination

The bulk of emails to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin voice support for her task force targeting indoctrination in schools.

Some emailers — from across Idaho and from beyond state lines — say the effort is an overdue and gutsy attempt to curb leftist teachings.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin starts the June 24 education task force meeting. Nik Streng/Idaho EdNews

Others dismissed the task force as misguided, pointless and politically driven.

To get a gauge on the feedback McGeachin has received on the issue, Idaho Education News submitted a public records request for all emails to the lieutenant governor since Jan. 1, containing either the word “indoctrination” or the phrase “critical race theory.”

Idaho Education News submitted the request on July 15 and received the emails Tuesday, and this in itself is a departure.

McGeachin’s office has denied record requests pertaining to her task force itself — including comments submitted to the task force’s online feedback form. The Idaho Press Club last week sued McGeachin for the records, on behalf of Idaho Education News, Idaho Capital Sun and the Idaho Statesman.

In the case of the request for emails, McGeachin’s office responded within 10 business days, the timeframe laid out in the state’s public records law. And while McGeachin has publicly criticized the media for requesting names and email addresses of people who commented to the task force — “Why does the media want YOUR personal information?” she wrote in a June 4 Facebook post — her office released the indoctrination/critical race theory emails in full, including names and email addresses.

Here are some takeaways from those emails:

By the numbers. McGeachin’s office released exactly 100 emails. Based on Idaho Education News’ analysis, 55 emails voiced opposition to critical race theory or support for the indoctrination task force, while 27 emails criticized McGeachin or the task force. The remaining 18 emails voiced no clear opinion; some writers simply had questions or volunteered to serve on the task force.

What McGeachin’s supporters said. A sampling:

  • “Our kids are locked up daily with these monsters. The monsters need removed YESTERDAY,” Deb Belisle, a Payette grandmother who says school leaders have failed to stop leftist teachings in local schools. Belisle was invited to testify at the June 24 task force meeting.
  • “Please encourage (Gov. Brad) Little to follow in (Florida Gov.) Ron DeSantis’ footsteps and say NO to ‘critical race theory.’” Shyrl Courtright, Boise.
  • “My ethnic background is generalized as ‘Black.’ … I prefer being judged by the content of my character, not the insidious propaganda of race-baiting politicians.” Eli Johnson, Twin Falls.
  • “Keep fighting against critical race theory and you will have my vote.” Matt Seek, Nampa.
  • “Please remove critical race theory from our schools. It is counterproductive and only fuels racism.” Thomas Totten, Sagle.
  • Gina Vincen, a Garden City mother, says her daughter wrote phrases such as “white privilege” and “my privilege” on a class assignment. “I was so shocked at the content, I didn’t know what to say. So at the time, I didn’t say anything. Now, however, I AM saying something to you.”

What McGeachin’s critics said. Another sampling:

  • “The good that CRT can do far outweighs the discomfort that it might cause, and in the end, we seek not to slander our country, but to make it a better place for all people through critical thinking.” Hailey Bray, Boise.
  • “I feel that you are resurrecting the spirit of Joseph McCarthy who warned the country of the ‘red scare,’ which was a witch hunt and a scam.” Curt Kelley, Boise.
  • “Perhaps your gumption would be better served at Mar-A-Lago. Idaho is too beautiful to Trumpify.” Alice Mousseau, McCall.
  • “You, Lt. Governor, are anything but a good Christian, or a good American, or a good human being. You are disgusting and you should absolutely feel shame for your shallow and simple-minded approach to your office. I cannot wait to vote for your opponent. Have a fantastic evening.” Casey Decker, Meridian.

The timetable. While Idaho Education News requested emails dating back to Jan. 1, the indoctrination issue evidently wasn’t on the radar early in the 2021 session. The first email mentioning indoctrination or critical race theory, the search criteria for the records request, didn’t arrive until March 9.

And of the 100 emails received by Idaho Education News, only four were submitted before April 8 — when McGeachin announced her plans to form a task force to address what she called the “scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism.”

Despite this relative lack of feedback, McGeachin suggested she’d heard from numerous Idahoans about the topic. “As I have traveled around the state and spoken with constituents and parents, it has become clear to me that this is one of the most significant threats facing our society today,” she said in her April 8 news release. “We must find where these insidious theories and philosophies are lurking and excise them from our education system.”

A post-Fox News bump. McGeachin received several supportive emails after her June 2 interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News. Emails came from Idaho, but also from Arizona, Louisiana, New York and Washington.

What’s next: The McGeachin task force meets Thursday. Here’s a preview.    

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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