FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Late last month, Suparna Dutta’s son, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, started sending his mother distressing videos from a mandatory lesson straight out of controversial critical race theory — all in the name of “socio-emotional learning.”
The lesson centered a Netflix film, “13th,” with controversial activist and Communist Party member Angela Davis and a biased narrative about policing in the United States. While all discrimination must be eliminated in policing, the film has this odd takeaway: “Criminals are constitutionally deprived of freedom.”
Also unsettling, the PowerPoint slides had the distinct bright yellow three stripes that are the official brand of Black Lives Matter, the multimillion-dollar global enterprise. The slides included a key BLM mantra, “Racism as a structure,” with the menacing oversized finger of a white man over a cowering young black man.
For about 36 minutes, teachers lectured the students—who are about 70 percent Asian, 10 percent black, Hispanic, and multiracial, and 20 percent white—about the critical race theory concept of “intersectionality” and called out the mostly minority students of color for their alleged “racism,” stating without any evidence: “At T.J., the lack of diversity and informed students has perpetuated microaggressions and casual racism.”
In a videotaped message accompanying the lesson, Anant Das, an alumnus from the local activist TJ Alumni Action Group, scolded the students for salsa dancing at an international night celebration, which he called cultural “appropriation.” Teachers also led a bizarre discussion on “what stereotypes might you have about your own culture.” They pushed activism, stating: “Ways to address racism can include being upfront and vocal or pushing for social change through your own actions.”
The “Extra Resources” included a reference to “Black Lives Matter,” with a link to the official website for the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.
The “Black Lives Matter” link in the slide takes students straight to BlackLivesMatter.com, with snappy invitations: “Join the Global Movement” and a sign up for “periodic text messages from Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.” With just one click, T.J. students were directed to the political ambitions of the Black Lives Matter PAC, with its list of 2020 election endorsements, including specific politicians, including a specific school board member, Shayla Adams-Stafford, in nearby Prince George’s County, Md.
Enraged, parents, including me, questioned the school’s activist principal, Ann Bonitatibus. She wrote to the T.J. Parent Teacher Student Association president claiming, “There is no critical race theory training with students.” She deflected responsibility for the teaching, calling it “a project initiated and created by students for students.”
But 200-plus pages of internal school emails, disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal that on Aug. 19, 2020, Bonitatibus sent the T.J. “Equity Team,” including two assistant principals, a message that she had met with student government leaders about a plan to show the “13th” documentary in summer 2021, along with a conversation on “anti-racism.” She wrote, “I shared with them that their idea doesn’t necessarily need to wait until next school year. There could be a way to think about their proposal or a variation of it for this year.”
Over the next seven months, the T.J. principal, two assistant principals, the director of student services, at least three teachers, several counselors, and a Fairfax County Public Schools “equity” officer directly edited, wrote, and reviewed all of the content for the lesson, masked as “socio-emotional learning.”
One set of stakeholders never consulted: parents. That’s why I helped start a new organization, Parents Defending Education, fighting indoctrination in K-12 schools, so we could file FOIA requests like the one I sent Fairfax County Public Schools, revealing the complicity of the principal, teachers, and staff in creating the ideological lesson that our students got.
Meanwhile, over the past school year, we faced a superintendent, school board, and principal leading a crusade to racially alter the school’s demographics, with the school district abandoning the school’s merit-based, race-blind test in December to gerrymander the admissions process so fewer Asians and more black and Hispanic students would make the cut to attend the advanced math and science school.
The stealth lesson underscores several serious issues vexing schools today and the future of America. It reveals how school officials circumvent parents as they move aggressively to indoctrinate students in K-12 schools from neighboring Loudoun County, Va., to California.
It also serves as a cautionary tale on how how important it is that parents assert three rights most districts promise to secure: the right to inspect curriculum, spelled out in Fairfax County, for example, under “Policies and Regulations 3002-3011,”; the right to opt-out students from certain teachings, including on topics “sensitive in nature”; and the right to have “controversial issues” discussed “impartially and objectively,” a point spelled out in Fairfax County under Regulation 3280.4.
Contradicting these promises, the “Extra Resources” in the lesson also included a link to the organization Showing Up for Racial Justice, which believes “none of us can be free until we end white supremacy.” It featured on the homepage a very problematic and reductionist page, “The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture.”
This displayed “a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture,” including “perfectionism,” a “sense of urgency,” “defensiveness,” “worship of the written word” like memos, “either/or thinking,” “power hoarding,” “individualism,” “objectivity” and—finally, a very disturbing notion to present to K-12 students—“right to comfort.”
The final bullet point led to a shocking video, “On Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement” by a first-generation Korean-American, Kaiti Yoo. She flashed the image of a Time magazine cover with smiling young students beside the headline, “Those Asian-American Whiz Kids,” as she waxed on about learning to “justify our existence through our work, our grades, our accomplishments.”
Yoo’s video laid out a central narrative of critical race theory ideologues like Ibram Kendi and 1619 Project lead Nikole Hannah-Jones, who argue blacks and Asians “don’t experience this country in the same way” because Asians didn’t come to the United States as slaves. It laid out the guilt trip thrust on Asians from critical race theory activists to support radical black goals as the only way to support “justice.” The same theme was present in T.J. lesson materials such as the slide below.
At 30 seconds, the film featured an image of the American flag with a sign in front of it that reads, “The American Dream is Over.” It’s a biased, problematic, and shame-based video for anyone pursuing the “American Dream” without blind support for the BLM movement. It’s wildly inappropriate, unhealthy, and potentially emotionally damaging to thrust on students at a mostly Asian school caught in a race war of the principal’s making.
The next “socio-emotional learning” blocks will be April 21, May 5, May 21, and June 2, according to staff. Back home, Dutta sent a dispatch to the principal. She had one remedy for the indoctrination: the principal’s immediate resignation. Her subject line: “Dereliction of duty.”