In school and out, educators are paying the price in the controversy over critical race theory
As the debate over whether to teach critical race theory in schools rages on, educators and administrators in school districts across the country are feeling the heat both in and out of the classroom—and in some cases, in their own homes.
In Missouri, Rockwood School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles announced his resignation even as teachers called on him and the school board to protect them from “personal attacks and outright threats of violence” stemming from the district’s stance on systemic racism being addressed in the classroom. Miles confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that private security has been put in place for several administrators who received threats via voice mail and social media, although he said he was unaware of any threats having been made to him personally. Two administrators of color in the district—Brittany Hogan, director of educational equity and diversity, and Terry Harris, executive director of student services—confirmed receiving death threats; Hogan resigned from her position in April.
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Amy Donofrio was fired by Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran from her teaching position at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville when she refused to remove a “Black Lives Matter” banner from her classroom, a violation of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban of CRT in public schools. While the district announced that Donofrio was being removed from her classroom on the basis of “several allegations,” it did not specify what those allegations are. Donofrio told CNN earlier this month that the district and Corcoran were retaliating against her for her “protected speech, her complaints about discrimination, and, more broadly, her support of Black students’ lives.” The Southern Poverty Law Center is now suing Duval Schools on Donofrio’s behalf.
And Jeff Porter, Superintendent of Schools at MSAD #51 District in Maine, found his own community in conflict as far back as summer 2020, when a father accused the district of trying to “indoctrinate” his children by teaching critical race theory. While critical race theory was not part of the curriculum at the time, the district did denounce white supremacy following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police. The parent’s ire intensified until he eventually involved a national group called No Left Turn in Education, which supports parents’ rights as they fight against the teaching of critical race theory. The parent has since put up a billboard-size sign of a school board member’s face on his lawn and surrounded it with rat traps to prevent theft, and a sign calling for the firing of Porter has been posted across from the district administration’s offices.
Even though a vast majority of school districts are adamant that they are not teaching critical race theory, many activists view CRT as an all-encompassing term that includes equity programs, LGBTQ-inclusive policies and any teachings that address racism. At this writing, at least 25 states have taken steps to ban the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms. In response to the bans that have been instituted, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement, “It’s deeply concerning to watch this debate become yet another culture war, as states like Florida and governors like DeSantis try to pretend this history doesn’t exist or that legislators should be the arbiters of what our kids learn in the classroom.”
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