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Critical Race Theory In Virginia Schools

Judicial Watch announced last week that it received 3,597 pages of records from Loudoun County, VA, that reveal a coordinated effort to advance Critical Race Theory initiatives in Loudoun County public schools despite widespread public opposition.

The records were produced in accordance with two Judicial Watch Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) requests to Loudoun County Public Schools. In March and April 2021 requests, Judicial Watch asked for communications between Loudoun County Superintendents Eric Williams and/or Scott Ziegler with school board members, teachers and parents regarding anti-racism initiatives, including a proposed speech code.

On March 27 at 2:19 a.m., Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC) Chair Keaira Jennings writes to former Director of Equity Lottie Spurlock and others that she tweeted “we will silence the opposition … without realizing the firestorm my words would cause … My intention was and is to have the voices in support of equity in education be heard and supported, and I was actually thinking ‘hopefully those voice will eventually ring louder and drown out those against equity.’”

On March 29, 2021, Jennings writes about distributing a MSAAC a “call to action” in hopes the Loudoun NAACP will join in taking steps against the “false narratives” of “the opposition:”

As you are aware there is a lot of negativity and false narratives being circulated in the community and news regarding equity within LCPS. I think it best to not engage the opposition but rather counter them and drown out their hateful rhetoric. I am attaching a copy of the call to action that MSAAC put out this morning in hopes that the NAACP will join us in taking these or similar steps. Later this afternoon, I plan to also submit a letter formally to the school board asking that they take specific actions items, recognizing that the censure of [School Board Member] John Beatty is not legal for them currently.

On January 11, 2021, Loudoun County School Board Member Atoosa Reaser writes Ziegler an email about legislation moving in the Virginia legislature under the subject line, “Bill Tracking> HB1904 > 2021 session” (H.B. 1904 passed and was signed into law by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. The new law requires cultural competency for teacher licenses.):

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This is the bill that’s going to encompass one of our program’s asks. It will be carried by someone outside of Loudoun, and is more comprehensive. I believe it encompasses what we were asking for and am OK with that path forward. Please let me know this morning if you have other thoughts.

Ziegler responds:

That looks good. Once the bill is passed, it will be interesting to see how the training and rubrics are built and promulgated around the [cultural competency] requirement. That will be where the real work starts.

On March 18, 2021, the African American Superintendent’s Advisory Council issued “Recommendations on Equity,” which includes among numerous other recommendations:

Establishment [of] a single indicator or composite score related to school climate that includes indicators related to antiracism and culturally responsive and inclusive learning environments

[A] requirement for educator preparation programs to include programs of study and experiences that prepare teachers to be culturally responsive educators.

Karen Dawson, executive assistant to the superintendent’s office asks a several public school officials to distribute the recommendations to their staff members.

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Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Ashley F. Ellis responds: “We already have a head start with so many of these things.”

Ziegler responds to Slevin and Director of Communications and Community Engagement Joan Sahgren: “I wonder if and how this information can be included in our communications.”

On December 7, 2020, in an email chain regarding a memorandum of understanding between the school board and the sheriff’s office, Spurlock writes to school and law enforcement officials about an upcoming panel discussion regarding “rules of engagement for the community conversation.”

On December 11, Katrecia Nolen, principal and owner of KAPAX Solutions, a management and IT consulting services company, writes:

Data shows that our children are disproportionately referred to law enforcement in Loudoun County and these factors should inform the MOU [memorandum of understanding] review process.

I understand that there were a number of community comments and questions submitted, when will we have access to this community-derived information?

In a March 19, 2021, message to the public school community Ziegler attempts to address concerns regarding “Rumors Concerning LCPS Equity Work” by attempting to draw a distinction between Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT):

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The professional development offered to LCPS employees explores issues that have traditionally been ignored in professional development. It asks employees to examine their own personal biases and how they might affect student instruction and interactions with the community. Concepts such as white supremacy and systemic racism are discussed during professional development. LCPS has not adopted Critical Race Theory as a framework for staff to adhere to.

On March 23, Ellis writes about Ziegler’s distinction between Critical Race Theory and Culturally Responsive Teaching:

As we’ve stated in committee meetings and messages to the community, LCPS is not teaching CRT (Critical Race Theory), nor have our staff been trained in Critical Race Theory …

***

Information related to countywide training for equity was shared with the LCPS School board on September 22…. Additionally, the Department of Instruction has created a frequently-asked-questions document related to Equity and Culturally Responsive Instruction.

The acronym “CRT” might sometimes be confused with Culturally Responsive Teaching.  As you know from C&I meetings this year, we do have a Culturally Responsive Framework that was developed this past year and is being utilized in our schools. Again, this is not Critical Race Theory.

In a March 2, 2021, email, Ziegler invites senior staff to a Zoom meeting facilitated by Virginia Commonwealth University: “Topic: Equity and Culturally Responsive Leadership: Racial Equity: What’s Race Got to Do With It? Dr. Cole and Dr Stanley.” Drs. Cole and Stanley work in the Office of Strategic Engagement for VCU.

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In early April 2021, Public Information Officer Wayde B. Byard engages in a conversation with Loudoun Now editor Norman Styer, whom Byard characterizes in an April 5 email to Zeigler, Ellis and Spurlock as “friendly.” Byard writes, “This editor has been friendly to us in the past. In our phone conversation, he said he wanted to ‘cut through the crazy’ and give an honest account of what LCPS is doing.”

In a January 26, 2020, email, Beth Barts writes to then-Superintendent Williams and other school officials informing them about a closed meeting by the Equity Committee, after it was leaked the Committee was considering a rule that would require parents to take equity training before they would be allowed to access their child’s “parentvue,” a mobile application designed to help parents monitor their child’s academic activity. Barts writes:

I would lie [sic] to draw your attention to the social media rumors that the equity committee is going to require parents to take equity training before they are allowed to access their child’s parentvue. There is some outrage building.

I realize this is not exactly accurate and was just a suggestion, but I wanted to make sure you all were aware.

“Loudon County is the center of the storm on CRT and these documents show school district officials were obsessed with pushing, often dishonestly, the CRT agenda, said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Judicial Watch recently made public a training document it received from a whistleblower in the Westerly School District of Rhode Island, which details how Westerly Public Schools are using teachers to push critical race theory in classrooms. The training course was assembled by the left-leaning Highlander Institute and cites quotes from Bettina Love, from whom the Biden administration distanced itself publicly after her statements equating “whiteness” to oppression.

In May, Judicial Watch obtained heavily redacted records from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) including documents related to their “Anti-racist system audit” and critical race theory classes. The documents, obtained under the Maryland Public Information Act, reveal that students of “Maryland’s Largest School District” who attended Thomas Pyle Middle School’s social justice class were taught that the phrase “Make America Great Again” was an example of “covert white supremacy.” The phrase is ranked on a pyramid just below “lynching,” “hate crimes,” “the N-word” and “racial slurs.” They were also taught that “white privilege” means being favored by school authorities and having a positive relationship with the police.

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In June, Judicial Watch uncovered records from Wellesley Public Schools in Massachusetts that confirm the use of “affinity spaces” that divided students and staff based on race as a priority and objective of the school district’s “diversity, equity and inclusion” plan. The school district also admitted that between September 1, 2020 and May 17, 2021, it created “five distinct” segregated spaces.

In February, Judicial Watch filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of David Flynn, the father of two Dedham Public School students, who was removed from his position as head football coach after exercising his right as a citizen to raise concerns about his daughter’s seventh-grade history class curriculum being changed to include biased coursework on politics, race, gender equality, and diversity. You can watch a Judicial Watch video presentation on the Flynn case here.

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