by Christopher Paslay
Some parents of Haverford School District students are not happy with the lack of transparency surrounding the school’s Equity Team, and would like more information on members, their specific plans and objectives.
In July of 2020, after the death of George Floyd, the School District of Haverford Township adopted a resolution supporting the development of an anti-racist school climate by the board of directors.
The resolution stated in part, “we must recognize that racism and hate have no place in our schools and society. However, we must understand that racism is systemic, and it is unconsciously and consciously rooted into our institutions, policies, and practices. Consequently, we acknowledge that we must look at our own school policies and practices through an anti-racist and equity lens to address traces of racism and inequity that still exist within our own school community.”
The resolution went on to establish the development of district-wide equity leadership teams, which, according to the resolution, “will be responsible for developing ideas and strategies to submit to SDHT administration and Board of Directors around equity.”
The establishment of diversity, equity, and inclusion teams in American schools has become the latest educational trend. And while there’s nothing controversial about assembling such teams (in some cases these teams do objective and meaningful work), there have been cases where school districts have used so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion” to forward a political agenda, and usher in radical, identity politics aimed at indoctrinating students rather than educating them.
Such was the case last year in North Carolina. The Wake County Public School System, which serves the greater Raleigh, North Carolina area, held 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.”
According to an article by Christopher Rufo, the first session of this equity-themed conference was called, “Whiteness in Ed Spaces,” where school administrators provided two handouts on the “norms of whiteness.” The article stated:
These documents claimed that “(white) cultural values” include “denial,” “fear,” “blame,” “control,” “punishment,” “scarcity,” and “one-dimensional thinking.” According to notes from the session, the teachers argued that “whiteness perpetuates the system” of injustice and that the district’s “whitewashed curriculum” was “doing real harm to our students and educators.” The group encouraged white teachers to “challenge the dominant ideology” of whiteness and “disrupt” white culture in the classroom through a series of “transformational interventions.”
Parents, according to the teachers, should be considered an impediment to social justice. When one teacher asked, “How do you deal with parent pushback?” the answer was clear: ignore parental concerns and push the ideology of antiracism directly to students. “You can’t let parents deter you from the work,” the teachers said. “White parents’ children are benefiting from the system” of whiteness and are “not learning at home about diversity (LGBTQ, race, etc.).” Therefore, teachers have an obligation to subvert parental wishes and beliefs. Any “pushback,” the teachers explained, is merely because white parents fear “that they are going to lose something” and find it “hard to let go of power [and] privilege.”
While the School District of Haverford Township has not embraced such radical and polarizing ideas, Haverford High School’s so-called “Student Equity Team” did recently send out an anonymous survey—not open to parents—asking students if they “have experienced implicit forms of discrimination like microaggressions,” and if students are confident that they know what a microaggression is.
Some parents of Haverford High School students have found this concerning, being that children in high school have no real understanding of microaggressions, and even if they did grasp the complexity of this, it wouldn’t matter; the concept has been thoroughly debunked by science. In 2017, Emory University psychology professor Scott O. Lilienfeld published a paper titled, “Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence,” which argued that the microaggression research program (MRP) “is far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application.”
The paper also recommended the abandonment of the term “microaggression,” and called for “a moratorium on microaggression training programs and publicly distributed microaggression lists pending research to address the MRP’s scientific limitations.”
Concerned parents did reach out to Haverford High School about the anonymous Student Equity Team survey, and were told by school officials that the Student Equity Team hoped to get more honest responses from students by keeping the survey anonymous. School officials did ultimately show the survey to concerned parents, and explained the survey results would go to Haverford High School administrators and the Teacher Equity Team to review; the purpose was to look for areas to improve at Haverford High School, and to bring in training to address such areas.
But not all parents are happy about the survey, and the Haverford School District Equity Team in general. The leader of a local parent group expressed frustration at the lack of transparency by the School District, especially involving the details of their so-called “Equity Team.” The parent group leader stated that they still have no idea who is on this equity team, or what exactly they are working to implement in the school—even after the parent group made numerous requests and filed “right to know” documents.
Is the School District of Haverford Township’s equity team approach the same as the Wake County Public School System? Will Haverford Township’s equity team strive to end the achievement gap by educating students with rigorous academic skills, or by indoctrinating them with identity politics?
This remains to be seen. Perhaps if the School District of Haverford Township were more transparent with their Equity Team, and responded more appropriately to parent requests for information, none of this would be an issue.