LETTER: Resident Shares Concerns About Critical Race Theory, Claims It’s Being Taught In Wilmington Schools

Dear Editor,

My name is Jeffrey Cohen, a Wilmington, Massachusetts resident. I am very concerned about critical race theory (CRT) in our schools. which is being implemented utilizing teachers as a conduit and under the guise of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI.)

Over the course of the last several months, I submitted multiple public records requests. The following represents a summary of my findings.

There has been a public denial of CRT being taught in our schools. However, instead of using the toxic term CRT, our schools and many others push initiatives that include the words “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Inclusion is even listed as one of the 4 major objectives in Wilmington School’s strategic plan, despite having no measurable goals to determine when the inclusion objective has been met. Recently, Wilmington hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator who will cover the towns of Wilmington, Woburn, Stoneham, Melrose, North Reading, and Lynnfield. Part of this person’s responsibility includes “providing instructional leadership and curriculum development through an equity lens.” Equity is a major component of CRT.

I have submitted multiple public record requests and was shocked at what they revealed. One email from a Wilmington school employee, when referring to diverse topic books, stated that they were looking for books that are “more diverse than the ones written by dead white men.” This same person also stated “I will bring a box of biographies to choose from. And I will try to NOT bring books about only dead white men.” These statements are unacceptable in any setting. Another email from a different school district, but sent to Wilmington schools, indicated that there should be an “internal investigation on the whiteness that permeates our organization and how our organization supports a white supremacy culture.” This same person goes on to state that to correct the culture, making statements and creating resource lists “does nothing if it only happens through the white gaze.” These are school employees have been entrusted to provide an unbiased education to our children. These statements are far from unbiased and are not isolated instances. According to the entity that generates the data for Wilmington school department public records requests, there are at least 49 entries of the phrase “dead white men” and a whopping 649 entries of the phrase “white privilege” in the Wilmington schools email servers. The volume of these phrases is astounding considering the results represent a period of only 18 months.

The training being offered to school employees is directly related to CRT. One training course is called “dismantling white supremacy in the library.” The course description states, “learn how white supremacy is baked into our institutions.” It goes on to say, “you will come away with a deeper understanding of how to dismantle white supremacy at work.” It should come as no surprise that this course would be taught by a “diversity officer.” Another course is called “The Equity Landscape in LIS [library information services].” This course includes “a discussion of critical race theory and its place in LIS.” The public records in my possession show a staggering number of training courses being offered which include the terms diversity, white supremacy, anti-bias, anti-racism, implicit bias, institutional racism, critical race theory, equity, unconscious bias, cultural appropriation, inclusion, and intersectionality. Many of these terms are directly associated with critical race theory. Students may not be opening books titled “critical race theory” but the evidence in my public record requests indicates that the training of school employees responsible for teaching students is directly tied to critical race theory.

Some public records requests were not fulfilled as requested. Instead of providing the requested information, only a “representative sample” of the public records was made available. The suggestion was made by a school committee member that these “representative samples” should be quickly fulfilled because “very few of the requesters have come back with additional requests if what we produce is not sufficient.” Some public records requests were forwarded to school committee members prior to the requests being fulfilled. The lack of transparency with public record requests is very troubling. Wilmington school personnel seem to be overly concerned that information contained in public records would be released to the public. Email chains among school leadership indicated a growing concern about the volume of public records requests. One email indicated that they wanted to publish the names of the individuals submitting public records requests, presumably to shame them.

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union, approved an agenda item called “New Business Item 39” during their summer 2021 conference. This New Business item states the following: “provide an in-depth study that critiques white supremacy…and that we oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or the 1619 project.” They have also committed their President Becky Pringle, to “make public statements across all lines of media that support racial honesty in education including but not limited to critical race theory.” Why would the NEA’s President be promoting critical race theory if it was not being taught in schools? Equally damning is the fact that the NEA deleted New Business Item 39 from their web site. The link below was archived before the deletion:

https://web.archive.org/web/20210705234008/https://ra.nea.org/business-item/2021-nbi-039/

I believe that the evidence from my public records requests shows that the tenets of critical race theory are being taught to those individuals who are directly responsible for teaching students in Wilmington schools, albeit under the guise of diversity equity and inclusion. Critical race theory is toxic to school children as it teaches them that success and failure is dictated by skin color. Our school system needs an immediate return to focusing only on core subjects such as English, Math, History, and Science, without injecting race into the classroom. I urge all parents to be more involved with the education of their children and let the Wilmington Schools know they need to focus only on student achievement and unbiased education. Their future and ours depends on it.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey Cohen

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