By Jeff Moore
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson in March announced the launch of a task force to address growing concern grew among public school parents about political and cultural indoctrination in the classroom, specifically related to Critical Race Theory.
The task force, called Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students , or F.A.C.T.S., is composed of education professionals representing all levels of K-12 — including teachers, administrators, and university professors. The group opened a submission portal for concerned parents, teachers, and residents to report examples of possible indoctrination in violation of the Code of Ethics for North Carolina Educators.
Carolina Journal was able to review a sample of submissions to the portal in advance of the task force’s first release and analysis of initial findings. While the open submission portal provided for a smattering of messages from political trolls and plenty of unactionable complaints about the state of education in general, the first round of submissions also yielded a bevy of tangible examples of tenets of CRT in classroom and district administrations.
One parent of a Wake County high school student described assignments from her child’s English teacher that focused specifically on white privilege and systemic racism, not as general concepts and definitions but presented as a certified perspective. In one assignment, students were told to select among content from the New York Times, a video series titled ‘Who Me? Biased?,’ to evaluate examples of the aforementioned terms. One episode is labeled, ‘Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Racism,’ and argues implicit bias is a more subtle form of racism that everyone, even the students, is engaged in.
“I felt it totally inappropriate but my daughter was afraid for me to say anything because of whatever backlash may occur,” reported the parent. “I simply told her not to take part in that assignment. I nor my child should [not] be afraid to speak up due to fear of what my child may have to face.”
That’s one teacher, but the Wake County Public Schools System, the largest district in the state, has itself garnered national attention for incorporating CRT at a professional development level. The City Journal’s Christopher Rufo reported on “an equity-themed teachers’ conference with sessions on “whiteness,” “microaggressions,” “racial mapping,” and “disrupting texts,” encouraging educators to form “equity teams” in schools and push the new party line: “antiracism.”
Several submissions to the task force portal drew attention to this specific teacher training in Wake County.
“Despite the claims of some progressives, the threat of critical race theory is real, and the racial divisiveness championed by proponents of CRT is terrifying,” says Dr. Terry Stoops, a member of the task force and director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation.
Stoops emphasized that this is only the initial round of collections, and he expects the portal to remain active in routinely evaluating submissions of objectionable material. More important, Stoops suggests, the effort has already validated concerns from parents and teachers in the face of active denials by some education leaders and anti-racist activists themselves.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Stoops noted. “Before Lieutenant Governor Robinson created the task force, parents in Wake and Mecklenburg counties complained about the distribution of ‘white privilege’ worksheets. The addition of F.A.C.T.S. submissions confirms that a segment of North Carolina’s teacher workforce has embraced critical race theory and incorporated elements of it into classroom instruction.”
Many teachers, too, describing their plight of self-censorship amid fears of reprisal, used the portal to share their concerns about CRT, and leftist political agenda in general, dominating their schools. A self-labeled conservative teacher wrote about the high amount of comfort with which some teachers engage students in political activism such as ‘Red4Ed.’
“We all know this is a political movement, not just a teachers’ rights movement,” the teacher writes. “By encouraging students, we are turning them into political activists. If teachers want to wear it, I don’t care. But it shouldn’t be discussed with students or encouraged by way of student support. […] I am one of many conservative teachers in this area, and we have been done with this issue for a long time but have few avenues [to speak out] that won’t put our careers on the line.”
Another teacher in Wake County reports being ostracized for “not being Woke,” reports the school principal openly calls to “teach for social justice,” and complains professional development is dominated by issues of race, LGBTQ politics, and other leftist political positions.
In the state’s second-largest district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, complaints of political indoctrination and ideological teacher training sessions were common among portal submissions. The latter is demonstrated by county superintendent Earnest Winston’s controversial decision to pay Ibram X. Kendi $25,000 to be the keynote speaker for the Summer Leadership Conference in June. Kendi, the author of “How to be an Antiracist” and a veritable rock star among CRT activists, was presented to district leaders via a 45-min interview that touched on structural racism, Critical Race Theory, and, notably, how “that’s not what we’re trying to teach.”
That, it seems, is certainly central to the debate. Moreover, it’s a question for which the task force seeks to be a resource. To that point, Stoops says, the task force “can provide a “second opinion” for parents and students who are unsure whether educators have crossed the line into political or ideological advocacy.”
For many making submissions to the task force portal, though, there is little uncertainty that lines have been crossed.
Parents report their Academically or Intellectually Gifted students being assigned ‘Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You,’ another book authored by Kendi; parents of elementary schoolers report vocabulary sheets that list Donald Trump as an example of the term ‘xenophobic’; North Buncombe High School seniors taking a college credit sociology course for high schoolers complain the teacher uses it as a veritable social justice warrior course, requiring white students to list their white privilege and applying Marxism as a solution to current events; high schoolers taking American History II are asked to identify institutional racism in the U.S., and presenting ‘police unions and the judicial system’ as a correct answer; kids at Sycamore Creek Elementary School are given assignments exalting Vice President Kamala Harris; and parents in Guilford County note their concern over the fact that the chair of the county school board is literally a racial equity consultant and trainer.
The latter complaint references Deena Hayes-Greene, chair of the Guilford County Board of Education, who was re-elected in 2018. Hayes-Greene is the co-founder and managing director of the Racial Equity Institute (REI), an “alliance of trainers, organizers, and institutional leaders who work to create racial equity within society.”
The company contracts with local governments and school districts across the state, and beyond, for equity training events. The training process rests on the presupposition that “Racism is a fierce, ever-present, challenging force, one which has structured the thinking, behavior, and actions of individuals and institutions since the beginning of U.S. history.”
Critics might say examples like those above do not include worksheets listing out the structure of Critical Race Theory, but the parents and teachers making submissions to the portal seem unmoved. When it comes to core tenets of CRT and other tributaries of social justice ideology being functionally incorporated within the classroom, district administrations, school boards, and local government, the dominant sentiment is that the lines have long since been crossed.
Stoops thinks the task force is one way to document those concerns, to bring transparency and attention to the issue, but ultimately it will be the parents and community members themselves that determine if recent trends continue.
“Increasingly, parents and children are attending school board meetings and speaking out against indoctrination in the classroom. In the end, families – not the F.A.C.T.S. Task Force – hold the key to uprooting Critical Race Theory and its offshoots.”