RALEIGH — In a previous article, it was reported that the state’s largest school district had been partnering with a training firm founded and run by state Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange) to provide “equity” training.
That organization, the Equity Collaborative, has contracted with Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS) for training that included a recently pulled course, titled “Intro to Critical Race Theory.” It had also conducted a “Racial Equity Institute” and other professional development courses that utilize the controversial Critical Race Theory.
Assistant superintendent of the WCPSS Office of Equity Affairs (OEA) Rodney Trice wrote an email on March 21 to the WCPSS board members about “the emails and calls some of us have received about Critical Race Theory.”
In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Trice refuted the idea that the district had used Critical Race Theory. In his email, Trice told the district’s school board members that “Critical Race Theory has not been and is not incorporated in the PL plans/offerings within the district.”
In that email, Trice also gave an oversimplified description of Critical Race Theory to the board, defining it as “an approach used to examine race in society.” He went on to say that it was “first used in legal scholarship in the 1970s, other disciplines, including education, began to employ it in the 80s and 90s as a theory to understand race and racism in their domains.
“From a professional standpoint, I believe Critical Race Theory has limited utility in the K-12 setting,” Trice wrote.
Trice gave the board five bullet points on Critical Race Theory:
- Race is a significant social construct used to organize society but not biologically significant.
- Critical Race Theory critiques notions of colorblindness, meritocracy, and the neutrality of law in society.
- Critical Race Theory calls for institutional commitments to righting past wrongs caused by institutions, which describes what is often referred to as social justice.
- Critical Race Theory advocates for centering the experiences of those most impacted by race and racism as a form of truth and knowledge.
- Race intersects with other aspects of the human condition, such as gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, etc. These cross points are known in the Critical Race Theory field of study as intersectionality.
“I don’t know how every one of those bullet points beyond the first one isn’t setting off alarms,” Dr. James Lindsey told North State Journal in an email. “It’s also a complete distortion (by specification) to say that Critical Race Theory doesn’t have applications within K-12. Critical Pedagogy is the relevant domain, and since 1994 it has taken on tons of the views of Critical Race Theory.”
Lindsay is an author, mathematician and political commentator. He is also the founder of the website “The New Discourses,” which takes an apolitical look at a number of “social justice” movements, including Critical Race Theory.
“More or less everything education does around the topic of race now is Critical Race Theory-based. 1619 Project? [It’s] CRT revisionist history,” wrote Lindsay, adding that if one looks up Critical Race Theory, you’ll see immediately that historical revisionism is one of its primary tools.
Lindsay also said the intended goal of “culturally responsive” or “racially aware” lessons is “to create a critical race consciousness, i.e., Critical Race Theory’s main objective.” He also took a look at some of Trice’s bullet points, noting several were “alarming.”
About bullet point number four, Lindsay pointed out that “Teaching them [children] that their own personal lived experience of oppression (and, by extension, guilt about complicity in oppression for those in ‘dominant’ classes) is a form of TRUTH and knowledge is utterly consistent with the Critical Race Theory objective and also totally bogus.”
In his email to the board, Trice also addressed the “equity” camp held on school property prior to the pandemic.
“The teacher conference (EdCamp Equity) that some blogs are referring to was hosted in WCPSS, but not sponsored by the district. In full transparency, educators in WCPSS helped organize the conference with educators from other Triangle districts. Educators from all over the state attended and presented at the conference.”
Despite Trice’s hosting claim, the event incurred catering costs of over $2,000 and a rental fee to hold the event was held on district school property. Both the catering and fee Trice signed off on and both were paid for by WCPSS. One of Trice’s OEA employees, Christina Spears, organized the camp in February 2020 and one in the year prior, both of which were held on a WCPSS school property.
The 2020 camp had some sponsors who donated “swag” items, including gift cards to places like the Olive Garden and Starbucks. Additionally, some attendees won $25 pre-paid VISA gift cards, “Teaching Tolerance Kits” and “How to be an antiracist” t-shirts.
The formation of the OEA during the 2014-15 school year was the result of a complaint filed by the N.C. NAACP along with several racial and social justice advocacy groups over the higher rate of suspension of minority students, often referred to as the “school to prison pipeline.” Creation of an OEA is specifically mentioned in a 2018 agreement between the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and WCPSS.
Since its inception, the OEA has conducted systematic “white privilege training” across WCPSS for staff and teachers through the Equity Collaborative and using a course called “Courageous Conversations” produced by Pacific Education Group, an entity founded by Glenn Singleton.
The department has also pressed for the use of “Social Justice Standards” created by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s newly renamed education offshoot, Learning for Justice. The offshoot had previously been named Teaching Tolerance.
One of the first OEA staff hires made by Trice was a former Southern Poverty Law Center/Teaching Tolerance employee. The OEA, which began with two to three staffers, has grown to at least eight and as of 2020 had combined salaries of over $650,000. The OEA’s budget, which includes salaries and benefits has also grown from around $250,519 in 2014-15 to $1.63 million in 2019-2020.
Last year, just after the death of George Floyd, the OEA launched a “Black Lives Matter”-themed website infused with Critical Race Theory content. The site contained links to the official Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Learning for Justice websites as well as a section on how to be an “ally” to BLM.
WHOIS domain records indicate that Trice had registered the site. WCPSS told North State Journal that Trice “used his own money to host the site,” because “the district website could not produce the type of presentation he wished to create.”
The original site also featured BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, a self-described “trained Marxist.” Cullors was removed from the front page sometime during December of 2020. Cullors has recently come under fire from other BLM activists for multiple real estate purchases totaling $3.2 million.
The OEA’s BLM site drew criticism from parents, who launched a petition for its removal. The district did not respond to the parents’ petition; however, following a recent records request by North State Journal, the site appears to have been taken down.