Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.
On September 29th, an association sent an impassioned and grim plea to President Biden’s office in which they “solicit[ed] the expertise and resources of the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, and its National Threat Assessment Center” be employed to address “threats and acts of violence [that] have become more prevalent – during public school board meetings, via documented threats transmitted through the U.S. Postal Service, through social media and other online platforms.”
“These threats or actual acts of violence,” including by “extremist hate organizations,” the letter read, should even require “appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence under the Gun-Free School Zones Act [and] the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism . . . “
Who were the extremists and terrorists the letter warned the President about? Islamist terror cells planning domestic attacks? MS-13 gang members who had penetrated the porous southern border and were marauding through American streets and committing criminal acts and murdering American citizens? No, incredibly, the letter was written by The National School Boards Association (NSBA) concerning school board meetings and the threat it described was purportedly coming from concerned parents attending those meetings and questioning, among other topics, critical race theory and mask mandates.
More remarkable, and troubling, is that, in response to the letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland outrageously issued an action plan designed, ostensibly, to suppress any further dissent from concerned parents—citizens whose taxes actually pay for public education. In his October 4th response, while Garland begrudgingly acknowledged that “spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution,” he, nevertheless, was “directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings [to] facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.”
The warning was stern and the message, although it will likely (and hopefully) be ignored, is clear: parents should not even think of challenging the current ideology of public school educators, and their race-based, equity-seeking, social justice informed teaching in which white children are oppressors and black children the oppressed. Yet, even with this admonition from the highest level of law enforcement in the land and this naked attempt to criminalize dissent and weaponize the Justice Department, angered parents, students, and even teachers have refused to be bullied and ignored by truculent school boards and have turned to the courts for relief.
Whether liberal judges will reject these suits or rule in favor of the school boards and individual schools being sued is another question, but it is clear from recent legal action against public school systems that litigants fighting for schools free of corrosive ideology are not likely to stand down, even with the prospect of the Justice Department now labeling them as some version of domestic terrorists for doing so.
An example of one of these lawsuits involved Gabrielle Clark and her son. Clark is a Las Vegas mother who accused her son’s charter school of “creat[ing] a hostile and divisive educational environment [that would seem to] violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” not to mention his First Amendment rights, according to a letter to the school by their attorney. At issue, specifically, was a required “Sociology of Change” class, a class for which the plaintiffs “repeatedly objected to the discriminatory content . . . that served no apparent pedagogical purpose beyond ideological thought reform.” Even though the son, William Clark, has a black mother, his father was white and the boy appears to others to be white, as well.
For obvious reason, the student rejected the school’s critical race theory instruction that condemns white people as racists and forgives blacks as victims of that racism. The lawsuit, in fact, contended that the course “predesignated guilt and innocence to individuals for racial, sexual, and gender injustice in the very terminology,” and by doing so compelled Clark “to adopt these premises at the outset, frustrating good-faith deliberation between students and teacher,” something he was unwilling, because of his own beliefs, to do. It was, as the lawsuit put it, “an official endorsement of an ideology he could not in conscience affirm.”
Additionally, the social justice ideology which informed the class required that all students “publicly profess their sexual, racial, and religious identities so that the teacher and others can scrutinize, interrogate and label those identities in a derogatory manner,” exercises which, according to the lawsuit, “serve no apparent pedagogical purpose and yet are pervasive to the class and homework assignments.” And, further, the lawsuit pointed out, the student’s privacy was not only violated by this “psychologically abusive exercise” by making students conform to one way of thinking, it violated the Constitution by compelling speech in opposition to an individual’s actual beliefs—something courts have traditionally ruled against when that speech is compelled by the state.
In June of this year, several Virginia parents, on behalf of their minor children, sued the Loudoun County School Board in another case that challenged the indoctrination of children on issues about race. Through the school board’s “Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism,” the position of “Student Equity Ambassador” (“SEA”) was established, along with a “bias reporting system” which enabled students to report instances of real or imagined bigotry when they witnessed it. “LCPS,” the lawsuit contended, “is all-in on a curricular framework that expects students to speak, act, and think in line with a particular ideology.”
The Student Equity Ambassadors were all chosen by race—only black students—and these students, not their white peers, could hunt for cases of racism. “Any dissent from [the school board’s ideological curriculum] can be labeled as ‘bias,’” the lawsuit contended, “and anonymously reported to the speech police, a group of handpicked students who share the LCPS administration’s ideology, charged to pass judgment on those classmates that their peers turn in.” Bias incidents could even happen off-campus, raising the prospect that students’ privacy outside the schoolhouse walls could be comprised, as well.
In May, three of Lightridge High School’s Student Equity Ambassadors presented to the LCPS Board. According to the lawsuit, the slide show explained microaggressions, “interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups,” and how they can be used in identifying racial bias. “The presentation continues,” the lawsuit reported, “by citing examples of microaggressions that are ‘denial[s] of racial reality’ like ‘I don’t think that white privilege exists.’ Another slide says that to assert a framework of ‘colorblindness’ which sees people as individuals rather than members of a race is a microaggression.” White students can therefore be accused of being racists even for their unconscious actions and beliefs, and merely by virtue of their skin color.
In one significant lawsuit, it was a teacher, not parents, who sued a school district for its excesses in promoting social justice and critical race theory. Stacy Deemar, a white teacher, sued the Board of Education of the City of Evanston/Skokie (“District 65”), a lawsuit in which she claimed that the school system, startlingly, employed “so-called antiracist programming” that “requires its teachers: a. To accept that white individuals are ‘loud, authoritative . . . [and] controlling.’ b. To understand, ‘To be less white is to be less racially oppressive.’ c. To acknowledge that ‘White identity is inherently racist[.]’ d. To denounce ‘white privilege.’” and “e. To participate in exercises with individuals of only the same color called “affinity groups”—that is, to racially segregate themselves.”
In fact, the lawsuit contended, “Throughout its curriculum and programming, District 65 promotes and reinforces a view of race essentialism that divides Americans into oppressor and oppressed based solely on their skin color . . . [setting] up a dichotomy between white and non-white races that depicts whiteness as inherently racist and a tool of oppression.”
Documents for the lawsuit by the Southeastern Legal Foundation, Deemar v. Board of Education of the City of Evanston/Skokie (“District 65”), noted, specifically, that “in 2020 and 2021, all teachers from Pre-K through fifth grade [in the district] were instructed to read aloud” from Not My Idea, including such views that “Racism is a white person’s problem and we are all caught up in it . . ;” “Even people you love may behave in ways that show they think they are the good ones . . ;” “In the United States of America, white people have committed outrageous crimes against Black people for four hundred years . . ;” and “White supremacy has been lying to kids for centuries.”
The lawsuit further revealed how teachers purposely use the book to indoctrinate students with the notion of the permanence and evil of white supremacy. “District 65,” the lawsuit read, “also instructed fifth grade teachers to repeat out loud to students, ‘The author says that grown ups hide scary things from kids because they are scared too. This is called burying the truth . . . It is something many White people do to ignore racism when they feel uncomfortable.’” Additionally, those same teachers were instructed “to repeat out loud to students, ‘Pretending not to see color is called color blindness. Color blindness helps racism. . . . Many White people use color blindness to ignore the problem of racism.’”
Obviously, parents of children in the public schools are not only concerned about the race-obsessed, social justice-infused curricula being used in schools nationwide, but some of them, including brave teachers, are willing to challenge such indoctrination in court.
The Justice Department may have temporarily caved to powerful teacher’s unions and the school board association by seeking to criminalize the dissent of concerned parents. But this misguided and heavy-handed weaponization of law enforcement to suppress the views of those questioning CRT and other radical teaching will not likely deter parents from protecting their children from the reckless and corrosive ideology by which everyone again is judged by skin color and not, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wisely suggested, by the content of their character.