Special permission was granted by author Don Day for republishing his story on our website. The article originally posted at BoiseDev.com.
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean says she did not sign on to a resolution backing the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 education.
McLean’s name appears as one of four sponsors on the resolution on the U.S. Conference of Mayors website alongside Greg Fischer of Louisville, Ky., Lori E. Lightfoot of Chicago, and Ted Wheeler of Portland, Ore. The resolution defines critical race theory as “the practice of interrogating the role of race and racism in society, in which racism can be seen across systemic, institutional and interpersonal levels operating over the course of time and across generations.”
“I think it’s really important to be clear that I didn’t, in fact, give my name or sponsor this resolution at the conference of mayors,” McLean said. “It was a staff error – and we know errors happen. And we wish this one hadn’t.”
McLean said her signing on to this type of resolution “wouldn’t make sense.” Within Boise’s city limits, the school systems are operated by the Boise School District and West Ada School District. The mayor has no role in either organization – which are overseen by independent boards of trustees.
The city provided BoiseDev with an email chain from the city’s Director of Government Affairs, Kathy Griesmyer, to Victoria Cram with Squire Patton Boggs, who is a federal lobbyist on contract with the city.
The email lists four initiatives proposed by Fischer, the Louisville mayor. Griesmyer replied on July 30th with “we’ll support the highlighted ones below please” – with two initiatives highlighted, on Juneteenth and CRT.
The city provided BoiseDev with nearly 200 emails with the phrase “critical race theory” in Griesmyer’s account over the past year. Most were emails from members of the public, newsletters from conservative state politicians, or legislative updates.
On July 29th, Griesmyer forwarded the message from Cram to Washburn with three items highlighted as potential initiatives to support, including “Honoring Healthcare Workers and First Responders,” as well as the items on CRT and Juneteenth. Washburn told BoiseDev she told Griesmyer to drop the item on CRT, but that Griesmyer mistakenly removed the highlighting from the healthcare item instead of the CRT item when she forwarded it to Cram.
“Justice and equity matter to me,” McLean said. “You’ve seen in the work that we’ve done. We’ve prioritized the office of police oversight, climate action, and planting trees in areas that haven’t seen the same investment. I’m committed to justice in these areas – but not in an arena that I have no oversight over.”
Wednesday evening, after BoiseDev reached out for comment, Griesmyer again wrote to Cram, asking for McLean’s name to be removed.
“It has come to my attention that I have mistakenly signed the mayor onto the ‘supporting Critical Race Theory in Public K-12 Education’ resolution highlighted below. That was an oversight on my end, and the mayor should not be listed as a signatory to the resolution.”
McLean’s Chief of Staff Courtney Washburn said city staff is “working to confirm” the removal of McLean’s name from the resolution.
After the publication of this story, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Mayors told us by email McLean’s inclusion as a sponsor “was an error – and her name has been removed.”
As BoiseDev was working on this story, the Idaho Freedom Foundation published an item on it as well. McLean shot back.
“This was an error on a website that the Idaho Freedom Foundation used to fundraise,” she said. “They could’ve reached out for clarification. They didn’t. They didn’t ask questions, they didn’t clarify – and they are fundraising. They are driving wedges at a time that we are seeing real issues in our communities.”
BoiseDev reached out to IFF Vice President Dustin Hurst, who did not return a request for comment, which is in keeping with the organization’s publicly stated stance on media inquiries.
Don Day is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].