Montana’s Attorney General, Austin Knudsen, issued a 25-page legal opinion in May 2021 that could have far-reaching implications beyond the state. Knudsen opined that requiring CRT and anti-racism training violated federal and state civil rights law. This opinion extends beyond public schools, and could lead to the AG protecting the civil rights of all Montana citizens who face such mandates in a wide range of settings. It could also serve as a template for other states that wish to oppose CRT without outright bans, which may or may not be effective or legal. Knudson issued his opinion in response to a request for clarification from the state superintendent of public education. (source: https://legalinsurrection.com/2021/05/montana-attorney-general-rules-many-aspects-of-critical-race-and-antiracism-training-are-unlawful/)

Knudsen was also a signer on the letter to the Biden administration, signed by 20 state attorneys general, opposing CRT curriculum mandates in the Department of Education grantmaking process.

K-12 Education

The AG issued his opinion in response to an inquiry by Elsie Arntsen, Montana’s superintendent of public education, who opposes any elements of CRT and anti-racism teaching  in public school curriculum. (source: https://missoulacurrent.com/government/2021/05/critical-race-theory/) Despite her opposition to these areas of instruction, the Office of Public Instruction has a long list of resources for developing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion lens in creating curriculum at the district level. (source: https://opi.mt.gov/Leadership/Assessment-Accountability/School-Accreditation/Montana-Mentoring-Program/Instructional-Resources#860889371-diversity-equity-and-inclusion) The superintendent has said she doesn’t see widespread areas of concern around Montana. It remains to be seen how the AG opinion will shape the resources provided by the state to local school districts.

Higher Education

As with public instruction, the AG opinion could have far-reaching effects on Montana’s colleges and universities, both public and private. The Montana University System (MUS) has not taken a stance on CRT or anti-racism; however, it did offer a Teaching Scholars series in the 2020-21 academic year on Equity-Minded Pedagogies:

Like many across the nation, MUS campus communities are grappling with and responding to the consequences of deeply embedded racial, social, and other forms of injustice. In the sphere of higher education, these injustices often show up as inequities in academic achievement. For instance, by the marker of degree achievement alone, American Indian students and other racial minorities, low-income students, and first-generation students among other underserved populations have, on the whole, lower degree-completion rates. The MUS has made positive progress in narrowing achievement gaps, including the recent and ongoing system-wide initiative on High Impact Practices, the implementation of the American Indian and Minority Achievement (AIMA) Council and campus plans, as well as many other individual institutional efforts. But, this is monumental and necessary work that systems of higher education, institutions, and individuals must continually commit to. (source: https://mus.edu/che/arsa/mus-teaching-scholars/2020-2021.html)

The University of Montana and Montana State University have both provided ample anti-racism resources. In addition, they both have encouraged students to donate to or participate in outside BLM-aligned groups.