Jefferson County Public Schools Celebrate Cop Killer’s Memoir

by Christopher Paslay

The celebration of convicted cop killer Assata Shakur’s life story is indicative of the polarizing identity politics infiltrating Jefferson County Public Schools. 

Since the death of George Floyd in May of 2020, the Jefferson County Public Schools have brought a polarizing brand of identity politics into Louisville, Kentucky. In an effort to celebrate women’s history month, the school district’s Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department posted “11 Must-Read Books About Black Women in History” on the school district blog, the first of which was Assata — the autobiography of convicted cop killer Assata Shakur.

Shakur, whose legal name is Joanne Chesimard, was involved in the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973, and is currently on the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted List

Jefferson County Public School children are not encouraged to read Assata to help bring Chesimard to justice, but to celebrate “the depth and richness of Black women’s history in the United States.

If the celebration of a radical activist and convicted cop killer shocks you, it’s probably because you haven’t looked deep enough into the Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department of Jefferson County Public Schools.  Underneath the well-sounding mission statements and smiling faces on their webpage, the district is pushing a progressive brand of polarizing identity politics rooted in critical race theory.  Using a Marxist approach that stereotypes children by race and divides society into “oppressors” and “oppressed,” Jefferson County Public Schools are indoctrinating students to believe that their racial identity is the primary determinant of success in their lives.

Instead of using a values-based approach to achieve equality — one that promotes communication, understanding, and mutual accountability among the races — Jefferson County Public Schools are pushing an identity-based model that believes one group of people must be targeted, disrupted, or dismantled in order for another group to succeed.  In August of 2020, an elementary school in the district required its teachers to participate in a Zoom training titled “You Are Going to Have To Talk About Race.”

Slides from the training, leaked by a concerned teacher, reveal just how eager Jefferson County Public Schools are to force staff and students to see the world through the polarizing lens of skin color.  The second slide in the presentation stated that “Race . . . is a creation designed to keep Black people (and people of color) serving versus thriving in any system in the United States.”

This statement is concerning because it implies that the whole of the United States is broken, that all of its systems are purposely designed to victimize Blacks and people of color to keep them from succeeding.  In other words, students of color are not the captain of their own ship with control over their lives. They are simply a member of an oppressed identity group, not an individual who is personally empowered to shape his or her own future. 

Another slide, titled “Keep Trying,” made it clear that when it came to having conversations about race, there were different sets of rules for Whites and people of color.  A teacher who attended the training explained that the conversations were not mutual, or aimed at any kind of shared responsibility. Whites were considered the oppressors and Blacks were the oppressed.  And as such, the opinions, perceptions, and experiences of Whites were discounted and dismissed, while the opinions and experiences of people of color were praised and considered valid.  If you were White, you needed to keep your mouth shut, sit still, and listen to how oppressive you were.  

Does this sound like an approach that’s going to increase communication and mutual understanding?  An approach that’s going to bring any kind of holistic solution to injustice?

A slide titled “They’re not too young to talk about race!” attempted to racialize toddlers and preschool children, claiming that “silence about race reinforces racism.”  But this notion is completely false.  Children learn to interact positively with people of other races through principles and values, not through fixating on skin color. The content of character beneath the color of skin is the most important variable in race relations, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so rightly pointed out.

By far the most disturbing slide of the session asked teachers to “shift the historical focus of power from the privileged to the persecuted!” Here there was a picture of a shackled Black man hogtied to a pole, hands bound to his feet with rope.  According to a teacher in attendance, educators were told to stare at the picture, no matter how uncomfortable, in order to truly grasp the plight of people of color in America.  

Another slide stated that “compliance and neutrality are acts of racism,” communicating to teachers that they’d better get on board with critical race theory or be stigmatized accordingly.   

Even more concerning, a slide titled “Authentic Classroom Strategies” asked teachers to “get comfortable using words like whiteness, white supremacy, privilege, people of color, black, racist, racism, and oppression.”  Put another way, it suggested teachers should get used to dividing their students into polarizing camps based on skin color, and indoctrinating them in Marxist ideologies that turn Whites and Blacks against each other by stereotyping them as “oppressors” and “oppressed.” 

Most of this is cleverly hidden from parents and the public, of course.  Proactive words such as “equity” and “diversity” bring to mind positive images of fairness and freedom, as do the bright smiles of the children on the Jefferson County Public Schools webpage.  A deeper dive into the resources on their page, however, reveal just how strongly the district believes racial identity is a central determinant of success in the lives of their staff and students.

A document called “Affirming Racial Equity Tool,” which educators are encouraged to use when planning lessons, incorporate so-called “descriptors” into the lessons — guidelines which make race and identity the prominent factor in planning objectives.  One equitable lesson descriptor states that the lesson should “provide context to the history of privilege and oppression,” while another states the lesson should “engage students to recognize and critique power relationships.”  

Again, the Marxist elements are clear and present: oppressors vs. oppressed.  Universal values associated with content of character — such as honesty, tolerance, compassion, and self-reflection — have been hijacked and corrupted by identity politics, and are no longer viewed as absolute, but are now seen as relative to race and culture.  Which begs the question: Isn’t love, love, no matter whether it’s Black or White? Isn’t grief, grief, no matter whether it’s brown or yellow?  

Not under the tenets of critical race theory in 21st century America. Everything must remain culturally relative and without objective truth, which enables the racial polarization needed to perpetuate identity politics.  Even the literal definitions of words describing race and racism are constantly changing, a lexicon of terms created and controlled by progressives obsessed with skin color. 

The “Racial Equity Tools Glossary,” linked to Jefferson County Public Schools’ “Affirming Racial Equity Tool,” is quite eye-opening.  Here they conveniently define everything from “racist ideas” and “racist policies,” to “whiteness,” “white privilege,” and “white supremacy culture.” 

And what is “white supremacy culture”?  According to the Racial Equity Tools Glossary: “White Supremacy Culture refers to the dominant, unquestioned standards of behavior and ways of functioning embodied by the vast majority of institutions in the United States. These standards may be seen as mainstream, dominant cultural practices; they have evolved from the United States’ history of white supremacy.”

So there you have it: Jefferson County Public School children are being taught America is a systemically racist country run by a bunch of white supremacists.  It’s unclear how this is going to empower students to take responsibility for their lives and education, or give them the values needed to look past the superficial notion of race to the content of character. 

Not to worry, however.  Children in Jefferson County Public Schools may not be learning the lessons of Martin Luther King, Jr., but they will get to celebrate the life of Assata Shakur, who helped murder New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973, and is currently on the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted List. 

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’ll be interested in reading my new book, Exploring White Fragility: Debating the Effects of Whiteness Studies on America’s Schools, which takes an honest look at how things like critical race theory and anti-racism are negatively impacting classrooms across America.  You can buy the book on Amazon, or purchase it directly from the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield.

Does ‘A Place Inside of Me?’ Teach Kids to Resent Police?

Some parents have objected to Zetta Elliot’s pro-BLM book “A Place Inside of Me,” suggesting it foments fear and resentment of police. This video looks at two approaches for teaching the book: one which deals with addressing the numerous sources of violence in urban communities and helping kids process such violence while advocating for solutions; and one which solely focusses on violence by police, an approach Elliot takes with the book. Thanks for watching.

Discussing Critical Race Theory with Deb Fillman on ‘The Reason We Learn’

Deb Fillman, a homeschooling parent of three, online educator, and former classroom teacher with an MSed from the UPENN Graduate School of Education, hosts a YouTube channel called “The Reason We Learn.” Deb has 10 years of experience homeschooling, tutoring, and teaching online, and runs a tutoring service to help families develop customized education experiences for their children in grades K-12. Yesterday, Deb invited me on her podcast, where we discussed Robin DiAngelo, Critical Race Theory, and the future of public education in America. 

GoFundMe Removes Loudoun County Parent Group for Opposing Critical Race Theory

According to the Washington Free Beacon: “GoFundMe bowed to pressure from progressive activists and deactivated a fundraiser affiliated with a group of Virginia parents fighting the infusion of critical race theory in Loudoun County Public Schools. Scott Mineo created his GoFundMe in mid-March after members of a private Facebook group called Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County launched an intimidation campaign against a number of parent groups, including his Parents Against Critical Theory. The group compiled a list of parents, identified their spouses and employers, and called for members to find ways to shut down their websites.” Thanks for watching.

Haverford School District Stonewalls Parents on Specifics of ‘Equity Team’

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.